Servant Of Two Masters (The)

By William Shakespeare
June 1 2007
directed by Scott Schwartz

The setting is 18th century Venice, and the action begins in the house of Pantalone. He and Dr. Lombardi have consented to the marriage of their children, Clarice and Silvio, and the young couple could not be happier. The rascal servant Truffaldino enters, announcing that his master, Federigo Rasponi, wants to speak with the father of Clarice, Federigo's betrothed. (Federigo was reportedly killed in Turin by a gentleman named Florindo. Federigo had refused to allow his sister, Beatrice, to marry him.) Federigo is recognized by the local innkeeper Brighella; it is Beatrice masquerading as her brother. Craving independence and needing funds, she has come disguised to Venice to claim Clarice's dowry, and to find her lover Florindo. Brighella holds his tongue and the plot thickens. Pantalone, Clarice's father, demands that she marry Federigo, her original fiancé. Clarice adamantly refuses, as she really loves Silvio. Clarice soon learns the truth about Federigo from Beatrice, and sworn to secrecy, must convince her father that she agrees to marry "him." In the meantime, as Truffaldino installs his master Federigo/Beatrice at the inn, he meets up with Florindo, who also needs a servant. Truffaldino, always looking after his stomach, sees this as a prime opportunity to fill his belly and pocket with double the meals and income. As the servant of two masters, Truffaldino is not quite up to the task; he mixes up letters and bank notes, lies about his appearances and disappearances and blames a fictional character, Pascuale, for his blunders. The rejected Silvio and his father Dr. Lombardi, furious with Pantalone and Clarice, vow to take revenge upon Federigo. Clarice, distraught, swears death to Silvio before she could love another man. Silvio, about to run a sword through her heart, is detained by Clarice's maid, the clever and sprightly Smeraldina. Truffaldino manages to muddle the situation even more by mixing together the personal property of his two masters; Florindo finds a portrait of Beatrice in his jacket that belongs to her, and she finds her old letters written to Florindo in her belongings. This "proves" to each of them that the other is dead. On the verge of killing themselves, they discover each other (as, conveniently, they are rooming at the same inn) and all is revealed. The two young couples are reunited, and even Truffaldino, who finally confesses his deception, is able to fill his stomach and even find a little love on the side. -Janine Kehlenbach, Dramaturg
-Melinda J. Scott, Editor

Date Time
Friday June 1 12:00 am
Closed

On Broadway, Scott has directed Golda's Balcony and Jane Eyre. Off Broadway, Bat Boy: The Musical (Drama Desk nomination, Best Director); Tick, Tick...Boom! (Drama Desk nom, Best Director); The Foreigner (starring Matthew Broderick); Kafka's The Castle (Outer Critics Circle nom, Best Director); Miss Julie and No Way to Treat a Lady. His other credits include: Golda's Balcony tour, Los Angeles, and San Francisco; Tick, Tick...Boom! in London and Los Angeles (Ovation Award nom, Best Director); "Lavender Girl" as part of 3hree, conceived by Harold Prince. For radio, Scott directed the Grammy-nominated recording of The Prisoner of Second Avenue (starring Richard Dreyfus and Marsha Mason). His regional theater work includes: Alley, Berkshire Theater Festival, Goodspeed, La Jolla, Papermill, Prince, Pasadena Playhouse, Signature, Studio Arena, TheatreWorks, Virginia Stage. He is a graduate of Harvard University, member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, and Associate Artist at the Alley Theatre. (1 season)

The setting is 18th century Venice, and the action begins in the house of Pantalone. He and Dr. Lombardi have consented to the marriage of their children, Clarice and Silvio, and the young couple could not be happier. The rascal servant Truffaldino enters, announcing that his master, Federigo Rasponi, wants to speak with the father of Clarice, Federigo's betrothed. (Federigo was reportedly killed in Turin by a gentleman named Florindo. Federigo had refused to allow his sister, Beatrice, to marry him.) Federigo is recognized by the local innkeeper Brighella; it is Beatrice masquerading as her brother. Craving independence and needing funds, she has come disguised to Venice to claim Clarice's dowry, and to find her lover Florindo. Brighella holds his tongue and the plot thickens. Pantalone, Clarice's father, demands that she marry Federigo, her original fiancé. Clarice adamantly refuses, as she really loves Silvio. Clarice soon learns the truth about Federigo from Beatrice, and sworn to secrecy, must convince her father that she agrees to marry "him." In the meantime, as Truffaldino installs his master Federigo/Beatrice at the inn, he meets up with Florindo, who also needs a servant. Truffaldino, always looking after his stomach, sees this as a prime opportunity to fill his belly and pocket with double the meals and income. As the servant of two masters, Truffaldino is not quite up to the task; he mixes up letters and bank notes, lies about his appearances and disappearances and blames a fictional character, Pascuale, for his blunders. The rejected Silvio and his father Dr. Lombardi, furious with Pantalone and Clarice, vow to take revenge upon Federigo. Clarice, distraught, swears death to Silvio before she could love another man. Silvio, about to run a sword through her heart, is detained by Clarice's maid, the clever and sprightly Smeraldina. Truffaldino manages to muddle the situation even more by mixing together the personal property of his two masters; Florindo finds a portrait of Beatrice in his jacket that belongs to her, and she finds her old letters written to Florindo in her belongings. This "proves" to each of them that the other is dead. On the verge of killing themselves, they discover each other (as, conveniently, they are rooming at the same inn) and all is revealed. The two young couples are reunited, and even Truffaldino, who finally confesses his deception, is able to fill his stomach and even find a little love on the side. -Janine Kehlenbach, Dramaturg
-Melinda J. Scott, Editor

The Influence of Food in 18th Century Venice "With this master of mine there is not enough to eat, and the less there is the more I want it." (Truffaldino, The Servant of Two Masters) Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters was originally written as a scenario, a loosely-based script associated with the commedia dell'arte tradition. Commedia originated in Italy in the 15th century and by the mid-1500's had matured into a form of entertainment led by highly-trained actors portraying stock characters, often wearing recognizable masks. These performances required great physical ability, as the actors relied heavily on highly rehearsed lazzi or antics-comic bits of stage business that audience members could readily identify. Often these lazzi were either urbane or very vulgar. Both old Pantalone and the bombastic Dr. Lombardi portrayed in Goldoni's 1745 comedy are characters from the commedia art form. An assortment of servants known as zanni (from which we derive the English word "zany") were also an essential development of this genre. Truffaldino, the servant of the play's title, is based on Arlecchino, a commedia archetype who wore a leather mask featuring a low forehead and a wart to highlight his peasant origin. Truffaldino's foolery is governed by his insatiable appetite, and indeed, food plays a significant role throughout the play. An entire dinner scene takes place in Brighella's inn as Truffaldino attempts to serve his two masters without being discovered. During the meal, he is able to grab a few morsels here and there with his trusty weapons (or rather utensils) that he always has on hand, just in case he can sneak a bite. This hilarious scene would be termed "the lazzi of the waiter," in the vernacular of commedia dell'arte. To designate this play as simply a modernized version of commedia would be erroneous; Goldoni was interested in dramatizing the pulsating life that he witnessed in his native Venice. Italy was experiencing political and social upheaval, even as art and music were thriving. Goldoni reformed Italian theatre so it would more realistically reflect Italian middle-class values and manners. He purposefully set his plays on the street, in houses, cafes and inns; what better way to characterize Italian culture, than through its food? As Italy navigated its way through the tumultuous 18th century, Italian cuisine was also undergoing transformation. Italians were moving away from heavy sauces and complicated spices. Foreign tastes were having an impact as Italians began to adopt the French way of service: an appetizer of soup (for example) followed by several different dishes, finished with some type of elaborate dessert. Coffee houses also began to gain great appeal in the 1700's as Turkish coffee grew in popularity. One of Europe's oldest coffee houses still in operation, the Caffe Florian, opened in Venice in 1720 and was frequented by the playwright himself. One can only imagine that were Goldoni alive today, his plays might feature Truffaldino sipping an espresso at the local Starbucks. -Janine Kehlenbach, Dramaturg
-Melinda J. Scott, Editor 
The Servant of Two Masters: Fun Facts Who Were These Masked Men? It has been suggested that the four "masked characters", Pantalone, Dr. Lombardi, Brighella and Truffaldino, otherwise known as the knave and the fool, in Goldoni's play would have been costumed in the traditional Commedia dell' arte clothing of the 16th century in order to denote certain well-known character traits. Truffaldino, most commonly know as Harlequin, was also clothed in baggy garments and always carried a wooden sword, which he used for many zany bits and gags. Finally, his pants were sewn together with mismatched patches and he wore a wide-brimmed hat. Let's Get Real, People! Even though many aspects of the play find their connections to Commedia dell' arte, Goldoni, actually wearied by the traditional "sit-coms" of the time, wanted to infuse the Italian theatre with a certain realism that reflected more of the time period by also including a slight didactic bent. Shhh...Don't Tell Marx... In a recent production, one reviewer remarked: "Like neorealist film, the novel individuality of Goldoni's performances brings with it a radical social message. The conventions that force these recognizable people into deformed, stock situations aren't just aesthetic. While domestic servitude may be less universal today than in Goldoni's time, the ***-kicking his masters gleefully administer to their servants still work as a picture of modern class relations." -Janine Kehlenbach, Dramaturg
-Amanda Holden, Editor