See it if
you're up for a refreshingly silly fast paced romp by a sharp ensemble in a too-long Commedia update marred by too many cheap election jokes.
Don't See it if
you've lost all sense of wonder or childhood, hate farce, buffoonery (at least onstage) or earthy humor that's universal and timeless.
There's more than a bit of magic in this production — the wonder that comes of simple but well-crafted bits of stagecraft that can transport an audience — light and dark, flickering lights, the rhythms of speech and motion, the easy joy of play.
And there is a lot of play here as well: the actors, with each other, with the audience and perhaps a bit, with the content and form of traditional Commedia dell'arte.
Not at all an update or modernization, this Servant strives instead to make the form relevant and present by being current; so that while the costumes and screwball form and plot are traditional and 18th Century, ad libs and references are contemporary.
All too contemporary, in fact, and therein lies the problem with this otherwise extremely polished and executed show. The references, unexpected and funny at first, become pretty easy and obvious, the post-election one liners increasingly cheap shots we tire of hearing.
Epp and company are truly fine, with amazing touch and technique that begin like clockwork with rapid-fire call-and-response timing that show the possibilities of true ensemble work. This unfortunately devolves as the evening and Act II drag on, into a one-man show with ever more unnecessary modern references. One might say that there’s many more than one “gurrrl” too many here.
It's a shame, too, that in a season that’s seen fresh air and life breathed into so many classics —Lisa Wolpe’s Macbeth; The Wheelhouse's Romeo & Juliet; The Torn Out Theatre’s al-female, all-nude outdoor Tempest in NY’s parks; May Violets Spring, whose iambics sounded like easy street conversation — this Servant With Two Masters just misses the mark with its overindulgence.
Still, it’s worth seeing; too long by half and a bit much at times, it’s very funny and often quite beautiful — and the women’s vocal trio in the second act shouldn’t be missed.