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Junior Clifton Holznagel, sophomore Rachel Weekley and third-year graduate student J.T. Silver rehearse a scene from Servant of Two Masters. (Linsi McCall | Ohio University School of Theater)

Theater school's studio show turns typical love triangle upside down

The theater often tells stories of forbidden love triangles, but this week Ohio University’s School of Theater will perform a show with a less romantic kind of trifecta.

Ohio University’s School of Theater will present Servant of Two Masters, a graduate student studio show directed by Emily Penick, a third-year graduate student studying directing.

The show, written by Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni, is composed in Commedia dell’Arte form, a popular performance style that employs the use of masks and includes stock characters such as the harlequin and the fool.

Servant of Two Masters follows the story of a woman, Beatrice, who masquerades as her dead brother Federigo in an attempt to gain his riches and marry her lover Florindo.

The story also follows her servant Truffaldino, played by J.T. Silver, a third-year graduate student studying acting.

Truffaldino becomes a servant of two masters, Beatrice and Florindo, in an attempt to quench his insatiable appetite. He is perceived as a fool, which Silver said came surprisingly easily to him.

“It’s been very much about finding my inner fool,” Silver said. “Truthfully, I really didn’t have to look very far. My Truffaldino is myself minus about 100 IQ points but 10 times as clever.”

While Silver’s character might fulfill the stock role of the fool, Nicole Tuthill’s character Brighella, the local innkeeper who recognizes Beatrice’s masquerade, takes a more serious attitude.

“Brighella is driven by the need to stay in business, so getting money is a big motivation,” said Tuthill, a third-year graduate student studying acting.  “I try to tap into that basic need to survive.”

Because of the range of stock characters in the show, Penick said she looked for specific traits when casting.

“When I was auditioning actors, I was focused upon finding actors who moved well, had a playful spirit and were willing to take risks,” Penick said. “As they say, ‘Dying is easy; comedy is hard.’ ”

Penick said the show allowed her to be more deliberate in its execution — using masks, creating a detailed set and employing movement training.

“While this is not in the main-stage season, the production values are very high,” Penick said. “We also have a more intimate space than a large show might have, with only a 50-seat audience per show.” 

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