THEATRE REVIEW: ‘The Servant of Two Masters’ delivers lots of laughs at Shaker Heritage Society’s Confetti

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Under the stars, and occasionally under planes departing Albany International Airport, we thoroughly enjoyed Confetti Stage’s buoyant production of “The Servant of Two Masters,” a 2009 adaptation of the 1789 Carlo Goldoni comedy.

Oded Gross, Tracy Young, and Paul James Prendergast have taken the commedia dell’arte-inspired original, added a few songs, and embedded the original story in the larger tale of a contemporary theater troupe struggling to get through trying times. In the opening scene we’re introduced to various actor types, among them the preening leading man (Steve Maggio); an actor concerned with salaries and budget (John Quinan); the slightly daffy ingenue (Marissa Reimer); the experienced—and loud— Shakespearean ham (Fred Sirois); and a young feminist actress (Julia Swick). And, of course, the parts they play in the Goldoni script turn out to suit them perfectly!

Because the acting company is financially down on its luck, it’s forced to use props and costumes for this show from other plays, like “The Music Man” (which leads to a very amusing scene). They hope that the Goldoni staging will solve their money woes.

This play-within-a-play conceit (and the so-so songs) made for a long evening on Friday. Sometimes, too, we couldn’t hear everyone equally well because the performer wasn’t close enough to the stage microphone to cut through the pleasant night air. No matter. We certainly got the gist of the silly Goldoni plot about star-crossed lovers/stern fathers/mistaken identity, and admired the costumes, the splendid tech work as the night deepened, and the joie de vivre of the singing actors. 

The entire production is under the direction of Ellen Cribbs, with a large assist by Confetti president Sean T. Baldwin, wearing numerous hats. Cribbs has paced the show superbly, and it’s a testament to her knowledge of the genre and drive and sense of humor that the large cast and crew mention her with gratitude in their program bios.

Contributing to the onstage fun are David Quinones Jr., Liz Helmer, Jennie Sinnott, Michael Anderton, and Mathena Rush, with musical support by guitarist Brian Starnes.

Oh, wait—I have forgotten to mention Ryan Palmer, who plays Truffaldino, the eponymous servant. Ryan Palmer, who plays this starving attendant to two men so he can double his chances of getting a good meal, though he knows that food is merely the way he satisfies his craving to find the meaning of life. Ryan Palmer, who, with his rubbery face, double-takes, spot-on comic delivery, improvisational skills, pratfalls, sleight of hand, repartee with the audience, and manic energy, makes us root for this plucky character, with whose travails in life we are familiar. Ryan Palmer, who is in the tradition of great clowns, like Nathan Lane. (And it was comedian James Corden who won a 2012 Tony for playing the Truffaldino role in another adaptation of Goldoni’s play.)

Yes, that Ryan Palmer. He is simply amazing.

Bring a chair, a beverage, a wrap, some bug spray (though we didn’t need it, thanks to the citronella torches dotting the grounds), and your funny bone. This troupe will tickle it.


‘The Servant of Two Masters’

WHERE: Confetti Stage, at the Shaker Heritage Society, 25 Meeting House Rd., Albany

WHEN:   Aug. 8 and 15, 2:00 PM; Aug. 13 and 14, 7:30 PM

HOW MUCH:  $15

MORE INFO:  518.460.1167, or [email protected]

Categories: Life and Arts


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