Wednesday July 26th 2017

“Servant of Two Masters”

Piccolo Theatre Company calls themselves “the small theatre,big laughs”, and I found these words to be very true. This was my first invite/visit to this very unusual and intimate space in Evanston and what a wonderful experience it was. First of all, the theater space itself is most unusual- located in the train station on Main Street, just west of Chicago Avenue, you enter through a door that allows you to walk or ride up to the second floor, which is the old train station. Yes, it is a train station and you walk along the platform, enter in the double doors to a small cafe called “pufferbelly’s” where you can get a beverage or snack before entering the intimate space where this company performs pure “Commedia dell’Arte”! And what they do is sheer perfection.

The production they are doing at present is titled “Servant of Two Masters”, a work by Carlo Goldini ( translations by Thomas Simpson) that is two hours plus of fun filled comedy dealing with the social classes of the times in Venice during the 1800’s. There are lovers who are betrothed by their fathers to wed as well as peasants who are not allowed the same courtesies. Part of the beauty of this form of entertainment is that the actors who are not in scenes are seen by the audience and in fact, they are a part of the audience. While there is a story to follow, the performers play off the audience and use improv as a means of telling the story as they use every comic trick available. Many of the antics you get to see will remind you of the old Keystone Kops, The Three Stooges and almost any slapstick comedy you have ever been witness to. And what a cast!                                                        

Under the direction of John Szostek, who has assembled a brilliant cast, this show never bores. In fact, the audience today , made up of members from 6 years of age to 75 years of age, all had a ball. While I would not suggest this show for those under 12, the little guy I saw, was having a ball! Leading this cast is Omen Sade as Truffaldino, the servant that ends up working for two masters and who keeps this show moving at a solid pace with his great comic skills and his wild agility ( he is like a one man show), followed by the adorable Deborah Craft as Clarice and Glenn Proud as her lover Silvio. Vanessa Hughs is a standout as Smeraldina and Tommy Venuti as Florindo and the love of his life Batrice ( the stately Denta Linneretz, who uses mistaken identity to escape a war-torn situation back home). This couple become the two masters to Truffaldino and present many complicated and funny situations, in particular a dinner scene that will have your sides splitting from laughter. To make this scene hit the heights it does, the following ensemble members Nicole Keating,Marcus Davis, David W.M. Kelch ( who also handles some of the choreography),Kevin Lucero Less, Ben Muller,Berner Taylor and Joel Thompson make it all happen.

The set for this show is simple and just adds to the flavor, but the costumes (Joshua D.Allard) and masks (Antonio Fava) as well as the music (Denita Linnertz) and props (Daniel Roberts) make the show complete. If you need a laugh, this is definately a laugher and will certainly become an experience to remember. “Servant” will continue through April 9th with performances as follows: Friday and saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.- tickets are $25 ( $20 for seniors and $15 for students) a tremendous value for an experience this memorable. To order yours ( and I suggest you do) call the box office at 847-424-0089, or info@piccolotheatre.com

To learn more about this company and the surprises they have in store for you, visit www.piccolotheatre.com

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