Jesca Prudencio Crafting Commedia

Classical Theatre with a Modern Twist: The Venetian Twins

Photo by Jim Carmody.

Classic doesn’t mean old. Classic doesn’t mean outdated. Classic means spanning multiple generations of people and being able to communicate the same message, the same comedic edge, and the same poignancy no matter the societal changes that have occurred. That’s part of what draws people to commedia dell’arte — these are plays that employ stock characters, highly physical elements, and dramatized interaction. The Venetian Twins was carefully selected by director Jesca Prudencio because it was, as she accurately describes it, “loud, humorous, and sexy.”

Prudencio is a candidate for the UCSD Theatre & Dance Directing MFA. Her studies have taken her to Italy over the summer to study commedia. “I was able to learn the spirit of the art form. These experiences truly changed my life… Breaking down the comedy to an exact science was a fascinating experience,” she says. As a self-described “very physical director,” Venetian Twins was a way for her to explore multiple levels of physicality.

Columbina, played Mary Glen Frederick & Florindo, played by Macgregor Arney (Photo by Jim Carmody).

Columbina, played Mary Glen Frederick & Florindo, played by Macgregor Arney (Photo by Jim Carmody).

In addition to relying heavily on comedic physicality, commedia dell’arte also employs the use of masks. Prudencio interest in this concept draws back to her extensive work in New York City using masks and puppetry. She has even gone to the Preuss School here on campus to give younger students workshops on commedia dell’arte and physical theatre. Last year, she directed Venus, where she explains that she, “explored mask work in the ‘play within the play’,” later elaborating that she is “…passionate about transporting audiences to a new world… When it comes to my work, I create pieces that can only be experienced live in the theatre.”

And when you watch The Venetian Twins, the team behind this production successfully moves you into a world packed with the cultural characteristics of the Italian cities of Bergamo, Venice, and Verona — but these social commentaries remain relatable for a modern audience.

In The Venetian Twins, written by Carlo Goldoni and translated by Michael Feingold, there are two brothers: Zanetto, the eccentric millionaire of Bergamo, and Tonino, the charismatic conman of Venice. The two, having not ever met before, arrive in Verona on the same day. This causes confusion, chaos, and uncontrollable laughter as the town chases these visitors. The ensemble cast is hilarious beyond measure, the design is gorgeous, and the whole time the audience is wondering how in the world the twins haven’t run into each other yet.

While the audience remains breathless from laughter, they also watch an interesting commentary about culture — about how “otherness” can make appearance, no matter what generation you exist in.

Prudencio says, “This sense of otherness and longing for home is something I feel very deeply… My team and I have created a whimsical fable exploring cultural class and how one town’s greed victimized an innocent man.”

The show captures all the emotions that Prudencio wanted to convey, all the while surprising you with every turn. Classical text never made so much sense. It’s all thanks to the talent and grace of Prudencio and her team of talented theatremakers.

Battle featuring Florindo [Macgregor Arney] and Ensemble Actors: William Shewfelt, Scott Duncan and Wylie Simpson (Photo by Jim Carmody).

Battle featuring Florindo [Macgregor Arney] and Ensemble Actors: William Shewfelt, Scott Duncan and Wylie Simpson (Photo by Jim Carmody).

When asked what she wants her audience to take away from the performance, she explains, “I hope my audiences not only laugh at the comedy, but also laugh at the distorted reflection of themselves onstage.” And, Tritons, you will do just that. You might walk into this theater expecting to get lost in the classical characteristics of it all, but throughout the entire show you will be sitting at the edge of your seat, unable to pull your eyes away from the jocular swordfights,witty exchanges, comical physicalities, and beautifully crafted piece of theatre made by these fantastic UCSD students.

 

The Venetian Twins runs from March 5 – 12, 2016.

For more information about the show, check out the UCSD Theatre Page.

Tickets can be purchased here or at the UCSD Theatre & Dance box office.