Servant of Two Masters - an uber-positive report!

**Make sure to check out the Christopher Bayes workshop at the bottom of the page!

I saw Servant of Two Masters at ArtsEmerson last Sunday, directed by Christopher Bayes. It was a fantastic production!

The performances, the mask work, the lazzi, all the details of the traditional form were so well done and the show was hysterical and fresh.

I adored seeing each of the stock characters so fully and uniquely realized by the actors. Pantalone was amazing with his ability to use extreme variety the mask allows. Arlecchino used the characteristic of distraction with such proficiency and delicacy, it was mesmerizing and hilarious.

The process of creating this show, I would interpolate, was through extensive research of the craft, then character development, improvisation, "scripting" of the improvs, and then bringing back the element that anything can happen at any moment during the performance. It had the specificity of great physical comedy, while not at all feeling contrived or put on. I was extremely impressed with the virtuosity of all the performers.

I also noticed most of the characters were on the balls of their feet with absolute focus the entire time they were on stage. There was a moment when some audience were distracting Pantalone, and he stopped and said to them "we are trying to concentrate up here..." it was a great rare moment, when you can see the deep work the actors were engaged with. Other than that, the whole show looked and felt effortless in its exaggeration and the flow of the physicality and musicality from one moment to the next.

One element I was not excited about was Pantalone's response during the late seating. He had a shtick he did with admonishing the audience - he said something about missing the whole beginning and someone (who may or may not be the writer of this blog) yelled back - well, do it again!! Perhaps he didn't hear this, but it went unacknowledged and it took me a while to warm up to him again.

He did, however, win me over with his commitment, generosity, and borderline senile ways which never lost status or power.

The show touched on modern stereotypes as well, which, because they must have derived from moments of lazzi, were pushing limits, vulgar, profane, and hilarious while never loosing their audience. The character were living in today's world, while still adhering to the traditional costumes, mask work, and physical comedy.

It was also whimsical, playful, and had a moment when Arlecchino ran into the back drop of the sky, lifted it up, and found his way to the other side. The drop fell and began dancing in a starry world with his love, until the characters turned into dancing stars themselves and drifted into the sky.

I loved the show and felt it was a great commedia production!


Christopher Bayes is teaching a commedia workshop in March - see info below:

Commedia Dell'arte Weekend

Discover the world of Harlequino, Pantalone, and other archetypes of the Commedia dell'Arte. Celebrate the vulgar, the romantic and, of course, the profane. Find the lazzi. Learn to bring the mask to life. Live fully in your body. Investigate the actor/creator. Take ownership of your work.
Admission is open to all students.

Instructor: Christopher Bayes

Saturday, March 16, 1-6pm

AND Sunday, March 17, 12-5pm

@ ART NY, South Oxford Space, Great Room
138 South Oxford St, Brooklyn, NYC


To sign up for a workshop or ask questions,
call Virginia @ 917-533-1924 or

$50 non-refundable deposit required to reserve a spot per workshop.