A dramatic spaghetti with Taiwanese flavor

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Jul 30, 2004 - Page 18

A story of love, sex and death and all of it comical, Carlo Goldoni's The Venetian Twins is renowned for its slapstick and sometimes coarse humor. Starting tonight, audience members can expect anything but boredom from Performance Workshop's much anticipated Mandarin adaptation of the Italian comedy.

After seeing a dress rehearsal, it's easy to see what all the fuss is about as the show is full of energy, with a star cast and a script that's really funny.

First staged in the mid-18th century, The Venetian Twins is believed to have transformed traditional Italian comedy theater. Originally, actors agreed on a basic plot and a general idea of how it should be performed before going on stage. Their improvised performances were -- and often still are -- crass. Goldoni stuck with the humor, but relied less on improvisation and more on a scripted story.

Just how bawdy an adaptation is now depends on the director. Performance Workshop director, Zhong Xinzhi's (鐘欣志) version will get a lot of laughs, but not at the expense of the audience. A few jokes, however, address Zhong's pet peeves such as a scene in the prologue that pokes fun at people who talk on their mobile phones during performances.

This is the theater company's third adaptation of one of Goldoni's works. The first two, The Comedy of Sex and Politics and A Servant of Two Masters were rewritten and directed by Stan Lai (賴聲川).

Zhong's adaptation of The Venetian Twins, like those of Lai's, preserves the main story and time period of the original but slightly modifies the dialogue to heighten its comic relief for local theatergoers.

"You can get spaghetti in Taiwan, but it's not the same as if you ordered it in Italy, because it is made according to local tastes here. Of course we are doing an 18th century Italian comedy. We use authentic costumes and music, but we changed some of the dialogue to give it a Taiwanese flavor," Zhong said.

The program credits a list of top Taiwanese stage actors and production crew with Wei Yicheng (韋以丞) playing the lead role of identical twins, Zanetto and Tonino. The dim-witted Zanetto, and the refined Tonino were separated at birth and end up in Verona at the same time to wed their respective fiances. As the plot thickens confusion ensues with a series of comic misunderstandings due to mistaken identity.

Three years since the company's last staging of a Goldoni play, anticipation of this year's performance shows at the box office. There are only a few pricey tickets remaining for the weekend performances and weekday dates are selling quickly, the box office said.

Performance notes:

What: The Venetian Twins

Where: National Theater, 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei (台北市中山南路21-1號).

When: July 30 to Aug. 7, at 7:30pm (no Monday evening performance).

Tickets: NT$300 to NT$1,800, available at CKS Cultural Center Box Office.