One man, two bosses, is a funny scenario

作者:CHEN NAN来源:China Daily

Xu Zixuan (left), who plays the role of Clarice, and Yang Qi, who plays Beatrice, during a rehearsal for the Chinese stage adaptation of the Italian comedy The Servant of Two Masters at the NCPA on Monday.[Photo provided to China Daily]

'Desserts are always a great choice to end a meal. For those who want to wrap up their busy and exhausting day, we present you with this special sweet treat, a comedy, which is even better as a dessert with a side of laughter," says actor Dong Wenliang, talking about the new Chinese stage adaptation of Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters — a masterpiece of comedic theater.

As a member of the NCPA Drama Ensemble, the resident drama troupe of the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Dong is going to play the lead role of servant, Truffaldino, in the comedy, The Servant of Two Masters, which will premiere at the NCPA on May 31 with shows running until June 3.

Considered one of Italy's finest playwrights, Goldoni wrote The Servant of Two Masters in 1745. The play has delighted audiences for centuries, and the classic comedy has been translated into different languages.

Set in Venice, it tells the story of the crafty Truffaldino, a servant who secretly works for two masters to make more money. He must do his best to serve both without either one knowing he is serving the other. The two, who accidentally share the same servant, were once lovers, and have been looking for each other for years.

The god of destiny makes fools of them all through a strange combination of circumstances.

Truffaldino's secret is nearly revealed on many occasions, but each time, his tact helps him throw others off the scent. Similarly, the lovers fail to reunite with each other every time. After a hilarious series of misunderstandings and mistakes, the story comes to a happy ending, with the lovers finally getting married.

Dong Wenliang (front) playing the lead role of the servant Truffaldino in rehearsals.[Photo provided to China Daily]

"With its fast-paced physical comedy, witty wordplay, and colorful characters, The Servant of Two Masters is very entertaining and will have audiences laughing from start to finish," says director Wang Jiannan, who works with the National Theatre of China.

Wang adds that what also makes the play a classic is that Goldoni preferred to try new ideas and styles, different to the mainstream style of writing comedy, known as commedia dell'arte, which was popular during his day. It is characterized by improvised dialogue and a cast of stock characters. This style emerged in Italy in the 15th century and rapidly gained popularity throughout Europe.

"Goldoni wanted to write representations of real life and people. He was credited with creating an innovative form of Italian character comedy," says Wang.

"When I did rehearsals, I couldn't help relating the classic story to our modern lives. There are many young people working two or even more jobs. I wonder what they experience in their lives and if they also have similar situations to Truffaldino," says Dong, 43, who was born in Beijing and graduated from the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts. He is an actor with the Beijing Quju Opera Troupe. Beijing Quju Opera is a traditional form of opera that is considered the only opera local to Beijing.

Yang (left) and Xu during the rehearsal.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Dong has been playing roles in dramas produced by the NCPA since 2018, such as Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream; and The Crossroad, which is based on real-life stories of soldiers serving with the Northwest Field Army, one of the main forces of the People's Liberation Army during China's War of Liberation (1946-49).

Yang Qi, who joined the NCPA Drama Ensemble in 2016 — the same year the ensemble was born — plays the role of Beatrice, one of the masters of Truffaldino, and who disguises herself as a man to look for her lover, Florindo, who is in exile.

Yang says that it is the first time for her to play a man onstage, which is both fun and challenging at the same time. She also adds that she rarely does comedy, which she finds very hard.

"The style and flavor of this 18th century classic is faithfully maintained in a modern rendering," she says. "I am not a humorous person and I barely make any joke in real life. During the rehearsals, I observed other actors like Dong, who is a very funny man, and tried to train myself to form the comic sensibility."