servant of two masters at the seattle rep

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There was a lot to enjoy in this show, but I didn’t find it nearly as funny as the rest of crowd did. Here are the details:

I saw this play last night, thanks to the kindness of ticket-donating friends. Very different from the typical fare – it was slapstick comedy from the 16th century, with contemporary references dropped in. According to the program, this is the way it was originally done; wherever the show traveled, it would include topical comments and humor referring to that region. Some of the actors wore masks, which was also typical of this kind of theater. Masks pose a unique challenge for the players, as it requires them to accentuate voice and physical mannerisms to communicate.

It was quick-witted, partially improvised, included songs, and didn’t hesitate to go for crude humor when the opportunity presented itself. It was interesting and everyone involved is quite talented. The only problem for me, and this was a fairly big one, is that I didn’t find it all that funny. When a character recited some lyrics from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop,” for example, it was current and topical, but funny? Not in the context it was used. Something that really was funny – the first few times – was when one character was surprised by the sudden appearance of another character and jumped up and yelled. After the tenth time, it was “Enough already.”

I think I would have laughed more if the entire play had been updated to the present. Somehow the juxtaposition of the old costuming and social norms didn’t work alongside references to Microsoft and the downtown tunnel project. Either update it or don’t update it, but mixing the old and new deflated some of the humor for me. Simply mentioning something from the current day isn’t enough to make me laugh. On the other hand, much of physical comedy was great, the singing was good, and some of the non-topical humor worked well. I’ll be interested to read what other reviewers think of it.

Aha – I found someone who saw a Twin Cities production and had the same experience I did. I’m not a lone curmudgeon.

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