New Taipei City-based Performance Workshop (表演工作坊) is beginning the new year by launching what it calls a “classic reproduction tour” with a revival of its 1995 hit, The Servant of Two Masters (一夫二主), which opens tomorrow night at Taipei’s Metropolitan Hall.
Company founder Stan Lai (賴聲川) adapted an Italian comedia dell’arte classic, Carlo Goldoni’s 1743 masterpiece The Servant of Two Masters about Truffaldino, a scheming, jobless manservant who thinks he has struck gold when he accepts job offers from two different people, which proved so successful that the company went on to adapt two more of Goldoni’s plays, The Comedy of Sex and Politics and The Venetian Twins.
In the 18th century works, Lai found a simpatico spirit of improvisation, with the fast-paced banter and physical comedy that have also become the hallmarks of Performance Workshop productions.
Photo courtesy of The Performance Workshop
Lai’s witty adaptation added some touches that make The Servant of Two Masters relatable to contemporary audiences, be they Taiwanese in 1995 or those in Shanghai, where the troupe staged the play in 2015 and again in September of last year.
In Goldoni’s tale, Truffaldino has come up with what he thinks is a foolproof plan to double his wages — and his meal opportunities — but finds himself instead entangled in a web of hidden identities, star-crossed lovers and confused parents while remaining hungry because he has no time to eat.
The mess is not entirely of his own making, as he does not realize that one of his new bosses, Beatrice, is a woman pretending to be her dead brother, while the other is Florinda, the man who killed Beatrice’s brother, but is also the love of her life.
Photo courtesy of The Performance Workshop
There is also another pair of would-be lovers, Silvio and Clarice — whose father had betrothed her to Beatrice’s brother, Federigo — and who would appear to be free to wed now that Federigo is dead, except for the fact that Beatrice has shown up in Venice disguised as her brother to press his suit.
Confused yet? Don’t worry, everything — and everyone — is made clear in the end, but not before the hapless Truffaldino has to organize two simultaneous banquets, juggling not only the conflicting demands of his two masters, but a lot of plates being thrown at him as well.
Tang Tsung-sheng (唐從聖), who is perhaps better known as Action Tang, stars as Truffaldino, and has said in interviews that four months of rehearsals — and all those heavy plates to catch — have left his hands bruised and sore.
Lai directed the 1995 production, but has turned the reins for the revival over to his sister-in-law, actress/director Ismene Ting (丁乃箏).
Truffaldino’s two masters are played by Chu Chung-heng (屈中恆) — known to many for his television hosting gigs — and Lee Shao-chieh (李劭婕), with Wang Jing-guan (王鏡冠), Weng Quan-wei (翁銓偉), Lu Ming-yao (呂名堯), Chou Yu-jou (周宇柔), Yeh Hsin-wei (葉信威) and Lee Fu-jung (李芙蓉) rounding out the cast.
While celebrated set designer Nieh Kuang-yen (聶光炎) created the original staging, Lai has reworked it for the new show, while the lighting was once again done by Chien Lee-zen (簡立人) and the costumes by Cephas Studio.
The show will be performed in Mandarin.
Following this weekend’s shows the company heads to Taichung next weekend, followed by two shows in Kaohsiung at the end of the month and then in March, appearances in Tainan and Taoyuan.
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