But commedia, of course, isn’t about sticking to the script, especially one that Bayes says Goldoni stole from the actors. So what do Bayes and the cast do during rehearsal?
“[Bleep] around,” says actor Stephen Epp, who plays the addled servant of the title.
“[Bleep] around a lot,” Bayes agrees.
On Broadway, “One Man, Two Guvnors” is up for seven Tony Awards after triumphing at London’s National Theatre. Richard Bean’s adaptation moves the action to 1960s England, with a British Invasion-type pop band playing lively tunes between the scenes.
The design and dialogue are updated, but the show’s bones are Goldoni’s, straight out of “Servant.” The plot follows romantic complications with a woman cross-dressed as her dead brother; double entendres fly and trousers fall. The farcical highlight finds the wily servant trying to feed two bosses (who don’t know about each other) and his own hungry self from a single meal.
James Corden is Tony-nominated as best actor for his impish turn, and you can see him in the NT Live broadcast of “One Man” next Sunday at the STC’s Harman Hall. After intermission, Corden addresses the crowd (there’s a lot of that in commedia, which has roots in street theater). He asks whether any particularly savvy commedia buffs might be anticipating what his hapless clown character, the Harlequin, will do for motivation in act two.
“No?” Corden asks, getting no response. “Good. Nice to know we haven’t got any dorks in tonight.”
Of course, since commedia is often gleefully profane, the word Corden uses is not quite “dorks.”
At Gallaudet University, Matthew R. Wilson is acting Hamlet. Only he’s playing the melancholy Dane as a loudly clad Arlecchino, which is another name for Harlequin. Wilson’s ludicrous orange sweater matches his argyle socks. He stands on his head during an early soliloquy. Late in the play, Hamlet and Laertes, grappling in Ophelia’s grave, share a Three Stooges moment, poking each other in the eyes.
This is “Hamlecchino, Clown Prince of Denmark,” the latest venture from actor-director Wilson and his Faction of Fools company. The show is flip enough to have two Gallaudet students in the cast performing in American Sign Language — meaning, as one character explains, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are deaf.” But it also sticks close to Shakespeare’s words, creating what Washington Post critic Celia Wren called “an almost Beckettian black comedy landscape.”
Last month Faction of Fools won a Helen Hayes Awards as outstanding emerging troupe, fairly quick work for a three-year old company that grew out of Wilson’s one-man performances. Wilson came to study with the STC’s Academy of Classical Acting, liked the theater scene in Washington, and thought a commedia troupe might take hold. Already, more than 100 people have worked with the troupe in performances at Capital Fringe and elsewhere.