note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Carl A. Rossi
Isabella, betrothed to Spavento … Cat Crow
Olivetta, her servant … Abigail Weiner
Flaminia, a young lady … Tanina Carrabotta
Oratio, a gentleman … Aaron Santos
Pantalone, an Innkeeper … Mike Bergman
Gratiano, a learned man … Jay Cross
Spavento’s Brother, a hero … Alex Newman
Arlecchino, his servant … Carl West
Brighella, a louse … Mike Yoder
Captain Spavento, a villain … Len Waxmane
Understudies … Pamela Dritt; Chris Shannon
Musicians … Angela Kessler (recorder); Michael Moore (recorder)
Hoo-RAY! No, the circus is not in town, but I Sebastiani is! The Greatest Commedia Dell’Arte Troupe in the Entire World is back with their latest improvisation, I CAPITANI GEMELLARE, or THE TWIN CAPTAINS. As always, these zanies are great, great fun and if you have yet to experience them, then this show is a great place to start.
Once again, the action takes place in a piazza in Ravenna where at least one character is Ravenous. The lovely Isabella, engaged to marry Captain Spavento (arranged by her pendant father Gratiano), has been pining for him for six long years; said Captain has been off seeking his long-lost twin brother. Though faithful in spirit, Isabella makes sheep’s eyes at Oratio, a handsome young gentleman, which draws the wrath of Flaminia, his beloved, down upon her own head and that of Olivetta, her saucy, quick-witted maid. The twin brothers --- both Captains --- return to Ravenna, each unbeknownst to the other. The good twin (in green) is a gentle romantic; the bad twin (Isabella’s betrothed; in red) is a scurvy fortune hunter. The Green arrives with his stupid, hungry servant Arlecchino; the Red takes on the services of Brighella, a native louse and fellow low-life. There is much confusion whenever the Green and the Red appear, especially in their dealings with Pantalone, the greedy Innkeeper (and Flaminia’s father); in the end, though, Love happily proves to be color-blind.
Though I Sebastiani, The Greatest Commedia Dell’Arte Troupe in the Entire World uses the traditional stock characters and situations (ever revolving around thwarted love), they never grow stale or repetitive thanks to their endless wit and lazzi and the shuffling and reshuffling of comic collisions (since each show is improvised from a plot outline, no two performances are alike). The core of the troupe are, of course, the Masks --- Alex Newman, Mike Bergman, Jay Cross and Carl West --- and they continue to be glorious, especially the ripe, yeasty Mr. Newman whose tenderhearted twin would be called “brother” by no less a long-nosed lover than Cyrano himself, and the amazing Mr. West who goes from show to show and Mask to Mask with nimble ease. The troupe’s give-and-take camaraderie allows this or that player to, suddenly, stand out: here, Cat Crow’s fluttery Isabella is a veritable chicken in heat; Abigail Weiner’s upper and lower torsos amazingly gyrate in opposite directions; and Michael Yoder’s Brighella is a merry, lewd combination of frog and fiddler crab.
For some reason, I have attended each I Sebastiani show under a dark cloud; the first two times were the looming threat of war, then the war itself; this time around, it was a grumpy day at the old 9 to 5. Ninety minutes later, I walked away like a happy child who had been given a sweet; I Sebastiani, The Greatest Commedia Dell’Arte Troupe in the Entire World had worked its magic once again. Come, then, good people of Boston; come cheer the heroes, hiss the villains and sigh for the lovers. Call out advice to the lovesick Oratio and bring along some food to toss to Arlecchino when he comes a-begging. But most of all, come to laugh, heartily and healthily, in these all too troubled times and feel yourself linked with the laughter-convulsed audiences of five centuries ago. The town of Ravenna, with its vanished world of merchants and bawds, lovers and servants, is a Great Good Place.