By Jordan Wright
In a triumphant return to the stage, director Vato Tsikurishvili presents “The Servant of Two Masters,” a commedia del’arte farce designed to poke, prod and tickle our funny bone. Designed to play up to Synetic Theater’s singular skills in mime and physical comedy, the characters are silent – their superior physicality backgrounded by composer Konstantine Lortkipanidze’s edgy electronica mixed with the strains of Edith Piaf-period French accordion music. I even detected a tack piano in one of the love scenes.
It’s easy to fall into the fantasy of the lovers and the fools and root for their desire to be together come hell or high water. The play focuses the vagabond Truffaldino (Tsikurishvili) and his lady Smeraldina (Maryam Najafzada) and the femaleto-male and back again role-shifting Beatrice (Nutsa Tediashvili) and her lover Florindo (Jacob Thompson).
A third couple complicates the antics further with the pouty teenager Clarice (Irene Hamilton) and her adoring swain, Silvio (Pablo Guillen). The three couples face challenges and interruptions to their love but manage against all odds to triumph. While of course there’s a happy ending, everyone is put through the proverbial wringer.
In the inimitable style of Charlie Chaplin with a dash of the Keystone Kops and the legendary Buster Keaton, the director’s adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s 18th century farce is filled with electrifying chases spliced with tangos, waltzes and a soupçon of ballet. But what’s even more unforgettable are the hilarious love scenes.
In one, Truffaldino and Smeraldina cement their love over a clothesline. Here they slip their arms into garments hanging on the line and dance together, entwining each other in a playfully romantic danse à deux that includes a sexy slurping scene. In another, the lovers playfully stretch dough into crazy shapes while working in a hotel kitchen overseen by Pantalone (Philip Fletcher), as Truffaldino races madly back and forth across the stage in order to serve the outrageous demands of his two masters, Beatrice and Florindo.
Surprises abound and a clever moving stage unfolds and whirls around to reveal a bed for romantic entanglements, double stairways, hidden cubicles and more, all cleverly designed by Phil Charlwood. The dizzying love story has many moving parts, and you’ll need to stay on your toes between the death-defying acrobatics, leaps and pratfalls and the beautifully executed dance sequences.
Through it all there is the sensuality of the lovers and those determined to foil their love played out in a true master class of pantomime. Watch for Tsikurishvili’s incomparable physical skills combined with his singular ability to convey both angst and adoration in a vast array of facial expressions. He is well complemented by his love interest, the adorable and delicate gamine Najafzada, whose comedic style is utterly enchanting. The entire cast shines from beginning to end.
Guillen plays the dual roles of Silvio and Federigo, and Delbis Cardona plays both Cop and Chef. “The Servant of Two Masters” is choreographed by Maryam Najafzada; harlequinesque costumes are designed by Aleksandr Shiriaev; lighting design is by Brian Allard; sound design is by Yaritza Pacheco and props are by Emily Carbone.
If you go:
Run dates: Through May 1.
Where: Synetic Theater in Crystal City, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington, 22202.
For tickets and information: See www.SyneticTheater.org or call the box office at 703-824-8060 ext.117. Strict COVID-19 protocols remain in place. On April 29, Synetic will stage a benefit performance for United Help Ukraine, Inc featuring excerpts from Lyrica Classic’s “Prayer for Peace” and a full performance of “The Servant of Two Masters.” All proceeds will go to UnitedHelpUkraine.org.