THE AMOROUS SERVANT by Carlo Goldoni (Pleiades). Runs to December 11. See Continuing. Rating: NNN
If you think commedia dell'arte is all about pratfalls and other predictable jokes, check out Carlo Goldoni 's 18th-century The Amorous Servant .
Yes, it has types like old man Pantalone and tricky servants Arlecchino and Brighella, but Goldoni's given the piece a heart along with the laughs.
The emotions resonate most strongly in the title character, Corallina, a servant who takes the side of Florindo, her master Ottavio's young son, against his father and the play's villain, his stepmother Beatrice. Intent on getting Ottavio's fortune for herself and her thick son Lelio, Beatrice turns her husband against Florindo. But none of them figure on the resources of the intrepid Corallina.
Director/translator John Van Burek 's English-language premiere of this 1752 work is filled with Italianate phrases to give us a feel for the setting, and his cast is largely adept at creating mood, whether it be comedy or romance. Still, some episodes, like a second-act card scene whose humour is forced, go on too long.
Michael Gianfrancesco 's lovely costumes and set - its theatrical panels open and close to change location - frame the work's action and emotions elegantly.
The acting ranges from the entertainingly farcical ( Dov Mickelson 's wide-eyed Arlecchino) to the too-serious ( Jerry Franken 's Ottavio, whose style is different from that of the other actors).
There's fine work by Nikki Pascetta , whose manipulative Beatrice knows how to mug effectively and whose smiles suggest daggers if she doesn't get her way; Richard Zeppieri as the boisterous, petulant, naive Lelio, whose mental elevator never reaches the top floor; and Nicolas Van Burek as the initially whiny Florindo, who needs a bride to win back his father's love. Will it be Pantalone's daughter Rosaura ( Alicia Johnston ), or the matchmaking Corallina?
Best of all, and tying the work together, is Christine Brubaker 's warm, generous performance as Corallina. Able to tap humour and feeling with equal skill, Brubaker makes even the most sentimental speech real; she drains the potentially saccharine from selfless Corallina and makes her loyal servant the master of this production.