Some of the action in the play, which George has updated with help from assistant director David Young, takes place on a canal.
“We have a gondola, and it floats,” George said. “There are two chase scenes in the show, Keystone Cops stuff.”
Such elaborate effects are possible because, while this is the last production on the Mainstage, it is the first time its resources have been fully exploited.
“The stage has never been used in its full 70-foot span, from house left to house right,” George said. “There are three buildings and a painted drop with lots of doors, even swinging doors, which are always comic.”
The plot centers on Truffaldino, the servant of the title, who is based on a trickster figure from commedia dell’arte and is trying to fool two masters.
“He wants two times the money and drink and food, but he doesn’t want to do two times the work,” George said. “Sound familiar from today’s marketplace?”
The complexities start to multiply in part because the two masters are involved in deceptions of their own, starting with their sexual identities, but Truffaldino makes everything worse.
“All the people we meet get duped by Truffaldino,” George said. “They get involved in arrangements that are going wrong, and all of it is his doing.
“Finally, he ties a knot that is so big and huge, and the way he gets out of it, he tells the truth, and the knot is untied. He tells the truth, and it astonishes everybody.”
The play developed out of a class George is teaching on comedy, from commedia dell’arte to the present day, and he will give a talk before next Thursday’s performance.
George believes contemporary comedians are too cerebral and are uncomfortable with the physical comedy Goldoni adapted for the stage. But he thinks fans of the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Milton Berle and Jerry Seinfeld will enjoy “The Servant of Two Masters.”