By Claire Hong
The lights flickered. Suddenly the lights shut off, and the room went completely black. The audience sat in darkness, wondering what had happened, while actors continued performing onstage, where their recycled props rested in the background.
The backdrop for this year’s play, “Servant of Two Masters,” was a recession that the actors were living through. Their supposed budget cut explained the periodic “blackouts” that occurred throughout the play, as the lights were purposefully turned off.
The set was also created from the sets of previous plays, such as “Pippin” and “Our Town,” and along with the recycled props, the majority of their costumes came from plays from the past couple years. Actors explained that due to budget cuts, they were unable to buy new props or costumes.
“In the play, they, like us, are in a great recession, and there isn’t enough money for props or costumes, so to capture that, we reused materials from other shows,” stage manager Theodora Davis ’13 said.
Performances for the play began Friday, Feb. 11 in Rugby Theatre and continued through the weekend.
The play was originally written in 1743 and is a comedy focusing on the servant Truffaldino, played by Nick Lieberman ’11, and his two masters Beatrice and Florindo who happen to be in love. Beatrice is played by Megan Ward ’13 and Florindo by Nick Healy ’13.
Natalie Epstein ’12 plays Clarice, who is betrothed to Beatrice’s dead brother and also engaged to Silvio, performed by Ben Platt ’11.
“The play is just a crazy adventure of a lot of misunderstanding,” Epstein said.
Although the play is scripted, members of the cast have opportunities for improvisation and also interact with the audience at various points throughout the play. Audience members were asked questions and sometimes even brought onto stage.
Its genre is commedia dell’arte, or comedy of art, which utilizes improvisation based only on a general outline of the scenario and the setting around the actors. The play took on a modern approach of commedia dell’arte, including current events relevant to the audience.
“We really didn’t know what the play was until we had an audience, which is what makes the play really unique because of the interaction we have with them,” Epstein said.
Jake Chapman ’12 and Gil Young ’13 provided accompanying music for the play. Chapman was on the piano while Young played the drums. The two also had several lines during the play.
“It was a great experience to be out of the acting, and kind of complementing it instead, because I’ve never done that before,” Chapman said. “It was like I was part of the audience, but also part of the play.”
Several seats in the middle section of the theatre were also removed in order to extend the stage forward into the audience. Those seats were moved on to the stage to add to the setting, and were filled up with audience members that were incorporated into scenes.
Auditions for the play were held early November while rehearsals began the week after.