Back in the mid-1700s, Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni wrote a comedy about a servant who can't get enough to eat, so he takes on another job, with another master. In The Servant of Two Masters, slapstick meets commedia dell'arte, an Italian, improvisation-based form of theater that dates all the way back to at least the Romans.
So there's no shortage of history upon which TheatreWorks can draw as it stages Goldoni's tale. Still, artistic director Murray Ross, who wrote the adaptation and directed the play, has made a few ... changes.
"The story itself is intact," he says. "It just happens to fit very nicely into 1955 Southern California."
His Servant trades the Italian city for Venice Beach, specifically its '50s diner scene, with music written for the production by Dave Weed, the powerhouse behind former local band Head Full of Zombies.
"Goldoni wrote a complicated and active plot," says Ross. He explains that the commedia dell'arte was basically an outline form for six skits, but Goldoni wanted more from his play: "This is like commedia jazz. It's Duke Ellington in comparison."
By tradition, the plays of this genre have a stock cast of characters. Actors who specialized in the various parts would move from play to play, doing their bits. An actor could make a good living, occupying the same role over and over again. Think Keanu Reeves.
In Ross' production, however, audiences can look forward to multi-dimensional local actor Sammie Joe Kinnett in the role of Truffaldino, the voracious servant. (A TheatreWorks standby, he's won the Pikes Peak Arts Council award for Best Actor, and appeared in several roles at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.) Kinnett and castmates will have opportunities to bring invention and improvisational spirit to the story, so no two productions will be the same.