Review: "The Servant of Two Masters" at The Shakespeare Theatre of NJ

Sarah Gordin

  • New Jersey Theatre Critic

Upon entering the outdoor Greek Theatre on the campus of Saint Elizabeth College, the audience is instantly transferred from Madison, NJ to Venice, Italy. This is partly because of the set design by Jonathan Wentz and sound design (Italian guitar pre-show music) by Warren Pace. The set is stunning and looks as if it could actually be a period villa taken out of Italy with its checkered floor with various colors and attention to detail, such as the porch lights with grill work. The set is two levels with many doors that slide open to create even more ways for the actors to enter and exit and allowed for the comedy and chaos that was to ensue.

The Servant of Two Masters, directed by Doug West and adapted by Bonnie J. Monte, is a commedia dell'arte comedy of errors and mistaken identities. Truffaldino, played by the extraordinarily funny and enjoyable James Michael Reilly, attempts to serve two masters at the same time, which proves to be quite the challenge. As Truffaldino states as he gets into mischief, “Out of one stew and into another.” Reilly holds the audience in the palm of his hand with his many comical asides, asking the audience for help or informing them of his plans thus creating an interactive feel to the play.

 Photo credit: Jerry Dalia.

Photo credit: Jerry Dalia.

Beatrice Risponi, a woman impersonating her deceased brother, was played by Izzie Steele. Steele had such a strong stage presence that I was constantly drawn to watching her, even when the stage was filled with actors. Other standouts included Miranda Rizzolo as the expressive young woman Clarice, Jay Leibowitz as Pantalone de Bisognosi, Clarice’s father, and Aurea Tomeski as the maid Smeraldina.

The costume design by Paul Canada was elaborate and smart. I noticed the matching color schemes and patterns that existed with characters that “went together.” This subconscious clue allows the audience to pick up on how the characters are grouped together within the world of the play.

Performances for The Servant of Two Masters are Tuesdays through Sundays at 8:00 p.m, with a special twilight performance on Sundays at 4:30 p.m. The Theatre is excited to once again offer free tickets for young people 18 and under. Performances began on June 20th and run till July 29th. The play was incredibly fun to watch and a great way to spend a night under the stars in Venice, Italy. Goditi lo spettacolo: “Enjoy the show!”