South Stage’s Commedia Fights Snow for a Hilarious, One-of-a-Kind Performance

Image courtesy of Jeff Knoedler

By Chloe Frantzis

Managing Editor of Arts

This past Friday night at 7:30 PM, I walked into City Hall not really knowing what I was about to witness. Yes, Commedia is a Renaissance-Italian style of a play with masks and improv, but if anything, that description made me even more confused when I walked in the door. To be honest, I really just didn’t know what to expect.

As it turns out, the best adjective to describe Commedia is not confusing, but amazing. The show not only gave Candy Corn a run for its money, but Rent as well. Commedia combined the best of both worlds, incorporating the humor of improv and the emotion of a full staged production.

Right before the start of the show, all the cast members went out, greeting and welcoming the audience. Then quickly, the lights dimmed and all the actors ran up on stage. After a quirky yet captivated dance number, each member pulled a mask out of trunk— the only set piece on stage— and put it on. Each mask was unique and very goblin-like, only covering the top half of their faces. Although the show could have technically been done without the masks, they added to the unique charm, and were vital to the ironic tone of the show.

Now, as it turns out, Commedia is no more improv than it is a play. The script includes each character, their backgrounds, and a general plot. The cast wrote all the lines to show, and added some in periodically based off audience participation. This structure allowed for relevant puns and humor, which generated lots of laughs in the audience– especially when “alternative facts” were mentioned off-handedly.

Although the play is somewhat hard to map, as it follows multiple different characters with multiple stories, the main through line is that a girl named Isabella (junior Sheetal Krovi in her South Stage debut) and a boy named Oratio (freshman Elijah Sarvey) are both looking for true love (they are both wearing pink and are the only two characters without masks), and end up falling in love with each other at first sight. Unfortunately, Isabella and her father, Pantalone (sophomore Aviva Fidler) get their fortunes told from a sketchy– and probably unreliable–  fortuneteller (freshman Simone Seiner) who  claims that the father is supposed to die in three days and that Isabella will marry a man in a red hat.

Yes, everything does end with a happily ever after, but that’s not the main point of the play. The real action happens between the characters and their interactions. Although most of the dialogue was slapstick humor, there was also a wide array of subtle political and risqué jokes, which spurred lots of laughter. Even though I can’t write out some of the more racy jokes, I really enjoyed how the cast included didn’t overplay them.

I also believe the the setting was key to the success of the show. The War Memorial Auditorium at City Hall was very tall and spacious, with white marble pillars and a stage. Although the actors were elevated slightly, they were for the most part in line with the audience, which allowed for a more personal and engaging production.

Overall, Commedia definitely exceeded my expectations. For me at least, I’ve never laughed harder in any South Stage production before– no snow storm could dampen the humor and liveliness of this talented cast.