When was the last time you got to laugh at a fart on stage?
Henley Street Theatre Company's “A Servant of Two Masters” is a fine example of adapted 18th-century theater -- a hybrid comedy that broadens one's knowledge of the craft while it prompts righteous laughter. It sounds heady but is just as fun as any episode of “The Three Stooges.”
Through “Servant,” the audience is exposed to the roots of modern comedy. Director James Ricks employs stylized makeup, the occasional mask, exaggerated movement and real, honest-to-goodness slapstick to explore the traditions of the genre while adding modern euphemisms. Richard Koch's expertly played Truffaldino spouts out nods to modern culture like the famous Campbell's Chunky Soup jingle, “How do you handle a hungry man?” The result is a light romantic comedy that challenges the audience through its novelty.
This show moves so quickly and is so stylized, compared to the realism to which contemporary audiences are accustomed, that more time is spent drinking it in than in audible reaction. However, raucous laughter comes at times -- for instance, during a bit between Truffaldino and Smeraldina (Lyddall Bugg) as they mistakenly destroy an important letter and later as Truffaldino eats from his masters' plates before serving them.
The superb cast members deserve kudos for their mastery of the odd physical requirements of the style of commedia dell'arte. Christina Billew's rendition of three physically different characters (Clarice, Porter and Waiter) is especially impressive. Production elements are all spot-on. Particularly lovely is the contrast between Adam Dorland's effectively sparse set with Rebecca Cairns exceptional colorful costumes allowing for focus on the actors and the action at hand.
If you like good theatre or wacky comedy, “A Servant of Two Masters” is just the ticket.
Henley Street Theatre Company's “A Servant of Two Masters” runs on select dates through Feb. 13 at Pine Camp Arts and Community Center. Tickets are $10-$20. For information go to henleystreettheatre.org or call 804-340-0115.