Bottegavaga Venice Theater Presents ARLECCHINO TORN IN THREE Review – Comedy Knows No Borders

Bottegavaga Venice Theater Presents ARLECCHINO TORN IN THREE Review – Comedy Knows No Borders

Editor's Note:  Read the related story-- "Meet Bottegavaga Theater of Venice, Italy – Fringe and Beyond."

Sometimes with two masks on – front and back of head-- to do a whiplash-threatening switch of characters…

..while similarly fast toggling between English and Italian.. 

..and meanwhile peppering their script with YOUR cultural references galore, from knock-knock jokes to Shakespeare quotes often delightfully out of context…

Bottegavaga Theater-- an ensemble devoted to preserving Italy’s commedia del’arte theater traditions, and making it accessible to a global audience—are experts at keeping you roped in to their physically told tale.

Bottegavaga Venice Theater ARLECCHINO IS TORN IN THREE
Vanni Carpenedo as Arlecchino

This fun romp tells the story of Arlecchino (the harlequin, in English telling), and is a condensation of the commedia del’arte masterpiece by Carlo Goldoni called Servant of Two Masters.  The play tells of the antics of a servant hoping to double his income by taking on two masters at the same time.  He is illiterate, and runs into trouble when he can’t keep track of which note someone gives him goes to which of his masters, eventually unwinding his deception.

Bottegavaga Venice Theater ARLECCHINO IS TORN IN THREE
(L to R) Betty Andriolo and Vanni Carpenedo
Bottegavaga Venice Theater ARLECCHINO IS TORN IN THREE
(L to R) Betty Andriolo and Christian Renzicchi
Bottegavaga Venice Theater ARLECCHINO IS TORN IN THREE
(L to R) Betty Andriolio, Christian Renzicchi and Vanni Carpenedo

Arlecchino (played with ballet dancer physical agility by Vanni Carpenedo) is both a buffoon and crafty—finding one after another gag-filled rabbit hole to carry us into.  One minute he is a dog taking a leak; another minute he is somersaulting across the stage.

In an instant, his fellow actor Christian Renzicchi ages with the perfect stooped back posture of an ancient, and with requisite mask becomes the classic Pantalone character.   He too then emerges in a total character switch blink, as a narcissistic dandy.

Betty Andriolo, with wig, cane and posture more square than biped, becomes the classic Il Dottore character. And also in a flash, is then the wide-eyed scullery maid, replete with the British accent that she--half-British and half-Italian--comes by naturally.  Then with voice, stance and turned up nose, switches again to be a gender pretender Count in search of family fortune.

All the action takes place in front of a minimal set, with design delightfully the same as costumes and props from time to time. This is true to the commedia del’arte tradition of keeping the focus on the acting.

In an intimate Venice theater, you quickly discover that the very switch back and forth in languages keeps you both off-balance, but at the same time roped in.  Within minutes you are quickly trained to lean forward, waiting for narrative to cycle back into English to break down the physical antics.

Bottegavaga Venice Theater Production is Tight

For this theater writer, the Italian interludes were in some ways juicier, giving us a chance to admire the troupe’s mastery of physical theater. It’s a loose limbed but otherwise totally tight production.   Director Alberta Toninato seems to know exactly whom she has in her cast and how to unleash their talents.  You end up wondering how their creative alchemy worked to create x, y or z touch.  Was it her husband Vanni Carpenedo’s idea to create a paper storm on stage of ripped banknotes? Was it her or Renzicchi who had the masterstroke to give the dandy character an inhaler that he uses as an affect punctuation to his lines?  Whose idea was it to use the oven mitts to do a stage top puppet show?

A young and enthralled audience member comes up to the first row in the darkened theater and grabs a seat
Bottegavaga Venice Theater ARLECCHINO IS TORN IN THREE
Director Alberta Toninato

But of course, none of this whose-idea-what-it matters—especially to the children in the audience who are likely to creep up to laugh from the front rows.

If you are visiting Venice, this frequent theater reviewer says you must short-list this on you itinerary.  If not, you will miss out on seeing not only a gem of Italian culture, but a theater group at the top of their game.

One caution seems in order for those who are not native English or Italian speakers.  There are stretches during this performance when mono-lingual people lose the thread, or at least this English only speaking audience member did.  But the script does cycle back before you lose interest.  If you don’t speak Italian and English is not your first language, it might again ratchet up in difficulty to follow, as seemed to be the case for one fellow audience member from Germany.  Perhaps  Bottegavaga will make it easier for all by printing the kind of plot synopses that we see in Shakespeare, opera or similar performance program books in the States.

Lovers of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival will be pleased to learn that this production of ARLECCHINO  TORN IN THREE will be presented at the festival this summer.  Performances in Venice are ongoing.

For more information and for ticket inquiries visit the Bottegavaga website.

Editor's Note:  Read the related story-- "Meet Bottegavaga Theater of Venice, Italy – Fringe and Beyond."

 

Or, performance tickets—and best tips for nearby best restaurants-- can also be arranged via Ornella Naccari of ON-View Travel Agency, a member of the Divertimento Group.

Photos in this story are available with a CC 2.0 license.  For easy download and license information visit the Picture This Post Flickr page

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