- By Sarah Kiser, Co-Editor-in-Chief -
The Meredith College Theatre will perform The Duchess Mislaid, a commedia dell’arte play this Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3p.m. in the Studio Theatre. Duchess is based on Flaminio Scala’s published scenarios of 1611 and takes place in Tribano, Italy. Meredith junior, Leslie Castro, plays Isabella, one of the lovers of the piece. The “lovers” of the play are stock characters specific to this traditional Italian renaissance genre. Directing the show is Professor Catherine Rodgers. She said “Commedia dell’arte is not a genre that is often performed today, although it has widely influenced all forms of comedy.” Commedia is comedy of the professions, so “characters will have certain characteristics that appear in every play,” Castro explained. In this show, audiences will see Pantalone, a grumpy miser of a father, Il Capitone, a suave phony, the zanni, or servants, and the lovers, who are always included in a commedia play. Castro described playing a stock character as “tak[ing] these 2-D characters and mak[ing] them three-dimensional.” For all these stock characters, however, the titular character, the Duchess, is not one. She instead has some surprising schemes up her sleeve —or is it her corset?
Audiences can expect high, hilarious humor. Castro added that “it’s pure entertainment.” She said “commedia is where the term ‘slapstick’ comes from;” one of the zanni even “carries a slapstick to command the actors to get in and out of character.” The set and bold shades of the costumes, which Castro described as “beautiful purples, reds, blues, and turquoises,” match the mood of the show. Much of the acting is based off of lazzi, which is separate from the script. Rodgers said that “the challenges of the commedia work is to get the lazzi (or stage business) right. I keep telling the actors the old vaudeville saying, ‘Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.’ Believe me, it is true!”
Not to give any spoilers, but there will be a happy ending. Castro foretold that “everyone’s happy, and those who deserve justice have justice acted upon them.” There is plenty of scheming, and there will be excitement, too. She said, “There is a great fight scene that is reminiscent of The Taming of the Shrew that me and the other lover have.”
For this production, some male characters were switched to female roles such as Brighella, who will be played by Meredith senior Victoria Mitchell, and Pedrolino, a pre-modern mime stock character, who became Pedrolina and will be played by Laura Austin.
Rodgers said The Duchess Mislaid runs “Nov. 7-11 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 12 at 3:00 p.m. in the Studio Theatre of Jones Hall. Admission is free to Meredith students, faculty and staff, and reservations may be made be calling the box office at 919-760-2840 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Photo courtesy of Catherine Rodgers. Photo by Michael Feder.