The SVSU theatre department hosted its first play of the season, “The Servant of Two Masters,” Wednesday, Oct. 31 through Sunday, Nov. 4, in the Malcolm Field Theatre.
The play, directed by associate theatre professor David Rzeszutek, follows Truffaldino, a greedy servant, who serves two masters to make ends meet. Throughout the play, mystery, murder and romance intertwine into a comedic start to the season.
“The Servant of Two Masters” is set in 1746 and is an Italian commedia dell’arte, which is known for its stock characters and improvisation.
For Brianne Dolney, a political science and theatre senior, the play marked her 10th production at SVSU.
She played Beatrice Rasponi, who is disguised as her brother, Federigo, for a large portion of the show.
“I have done commedia once before and played the lover stock type character, so that part of Beatrice was easy to connect to,” she said. “What was difficult, though, was posing as her brother, because he was more of a Capitano character that I hadn’t had much experience with.”
Dolney said that the play was unusual for SVSU and even the Great Lakes Bay theatre region.
“Commedia is a very unique and specific style,” she said. “All the characters move in a certain way, and there’s tons of improv and physical comedy throughout.”
Josh Lloyd, a communication and theatre senior who has also performed in over 10 SVSU plays, played Pantalone. His character was greedy and driven by money.
“It was fairly easy to connect with the character’s mischievous ways just because there are so many fun possibilities or funny bits that the character could perform,” he said.
The physicality of the character was difficult for Lloyd, though.
“The character (was) continually crouched down with bent knees as if he’s sitting in an invisible chair,” he said. “On the bright side, my thighs have never been stronger.”
Dolney believes that the unique style appeals to a broader audience than just theatre fanatics.
“It’s a historical style, but it’s also timeless,” she said. “And most of all, it’s just a ton of fun.”
While Dolney could not pick a favorite scene, she did note a few that were the most fun for her to perform.
“The scenes that were probably the most fun to do were the ones in which I switched back and forth between Beatrice and Federigo because I got to play so much with my voice and physicality,” she said.
Lloyd enjoyed performing a scene at the beginning of the second act. “I (got) to have some fun talking directly to the audience, while also treating them to a musical number,” he said.
Dolney and other performers were given more freedom with their characters than they do with most plays.
“We were encouraged to play with our characters and try different things,” she said. “It was very much a collaboration.”
Assistant director Jessica Hurley, a theatre junior, thought that the stage design also made the play unique.
“The set was composed of two wagons that the actors moved on to the stage and then assembled their permanent set,” she said. “The wagons unfolded and then opened up to reveal a typical main stage production set complete with décor and art. The concept was meant to resemble clown cars.”
Like Dolney, Hurley was thankful that Rzeszutek let the students bring their own ideas to the characters and the set.
“(Rzeszutek) is always huge on advocating for student work and educational theatre,” she said. “This experience was immensely helpful in the sense that he let me try any bits or ideas I was thinking of. Then, we would pick which things worked and what things we should let go.”
Lloyd and his castmates hope that audience members left the play laughing.
“I honestly just hope that audiences got a break from the hustle and bustle of life,” he said. “If I could make them laugh if only for a couple hours, then it’s all worth it.”