Home Haddonfield News HMHS fall play to provide public with Italian spin on comedy tropes

HMHS fall play to provide public with Italian spin on comedy tropes

‘Servant of Two Masters’ promises thrills, chills, spills and fun.

In one of the quieter moments during an Oct. 16 rehearsal for the upcoming performance on “The Servant of Two Masters,” by 18th-century Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni, Haddonfield Memorial High School senior Matt Eyles – who is tackling the main character of Truffaldino – acts out a scene in which he plays music for one of his bosses, before being accosted by the other for playing.

If you’ve ever wondered where every hackneyed trope from decades of network sitcoms originated, or where the genesis of rapid-fire dialogue and slapstick pacing which marked movies produced in the 1930s arose, then Haddonfield Memorial High School has the play for you.

Beginning on Thursday, Oct. 24, the HMHS Drama Club will present “The Servant of Two Masters,” an improvisational comedic work by Carlo Goldoni. It tells the story of a hungry servant, Truffaldino, who believes working for two masters can provide him with an abundance of food. And so, he tries to do the job of two men while scheming to conceal it from both employers. 

Chaos, disorder and hilarity ensues. 

“It is a spin on old comedy and it uses a lot of 18th-century Italian styles, so we do a lot of ‘lazzi,’ which are little snippets of acts. Basically, actors would be trained in just one role and would insert themselves in different plays, but they would be playing just that one role always. The roles would always be improv. So Goldoni decided to write down these improvs into a script. Some of it is improvised, and there’s also audience interaction, which is really cool,” stage manager Evie Ellis explained. 

When The Sun caught up with the troupe during rehearsals on Oct. 16, it was clear that timing and keeping your head on a swivel was a key to success. The young actors had to deftly work their way through a scene which involved throwing plates, mounds of food, acrobatic feats and musical instruments all requiring acute awareness of personal space and stage props. 

“When I went (out) for this play, I was interested in Smeraldina. I think the whole play is comedic, and I think Smeraldina has great comedic timing moments and she gets to play super well off Truffaldino, and I really liked that. I’ve done shows with Matt (Eyles) in the past and I was really happy to work with him again,” senior Chloe Griffault said. 

As for Eyles himself in the role on which the play revolves, “I’ve had a lot of training with memorization, I’ve been in acting training for just about a decade, so that hasn’t been much of a problem for me. As far as the physicality goes, this actually isn’t the first show I’ve had to run around a lot for.”

And he does run around a lot, as the titular servant of two masters. But there’s also the added component of navigating the scenery. And other actors. And food. And cookware, sometimes all at once. 

“I would say, it’s a big challenge, the fact that we keep adding things and various props and different things I have to carry. It gets a little confusing and it takes some more preparation at home to sit down and work on the order of things; that’s the hardest thing – to remember what happens when,” Eyles said.

Everyone involved in the play acknowledged putting on a successful production of an Italian comedy from 300 years ago exists beyond their comfort zones, and requires focus and dedication to get right. 

“When we picked it, I don’t think anyone suspected it would be this difficult, especially since there’s a diner scene, there’s cart jumping, so many things our actors have to juggle and it’s really hard to choreograph. We’ve had a lot of fun getting more and more ridiculous with it. It’s a really cool testament to how dedicated this crew is,” Ellis said.

For more information about this production, show dates and times, visit https://hmhsdrama.com/.


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