To 18th-century Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni, life is equal parts pursuit of food and love in order to satisfy hungers for both.
Franklin & Marshall's production of "One Man, Two Guvnors" uses humor, music, sandwiches and audience participation to ask a most basic question: "Do you prefer eating or making love?"
"It's a contemporary play that is an adaptation of this commedia play by Goldoni, 'Servant of Two Masters,' but it is reset in Brighton, England, in the 1960s," said Rachel Anderson-Rabern, director and F&M assistant professor of theatre.
Eat or make love, said the professor, is a question best explored through comedy — or commedia dell'arte, a form of improvisational theatre first developed in Italy in the 14th and 15th centuries.
"It translates as 'comedy of art,' but when they say 'art,' they are really talking about professionalism, so it refers to troupes of professional communicators," Anderson-Rabern said.
The play, written by Richard Bean and nominated for seven Tony Awards in 2012, debuts Feb. 11 and runs through Feb. 14 at F&M's Green Room Theatre. The cast of 11 students will find their comedic talents tested.
"It's one of these delightful comedies with ridiculous disguises and a lot of physical comedy," Anderson-Rabern said. "That's one of the reasons I wanted to do this, to give the student performers a chance to hone their clowning skills."
Guest artist and actor Zachary Fine helped the student performers find nuance in their comedic roles.
"(In comedy), there's a sense that 'funny' is being big and hilarious and letting everybody laugh at you," the professor said. "What we are working toward is when people really connect — when you get that genuine laugh — comes from forming an empathetic connection with the audience because your character seems real to them."
Senior Matthew Tibbetts, playing the lead character, said the role was a tremendous learning experience.
"The most surprising thing about learning to perform comedy is that you really can't be trying to perform comedy for it to work," Tibbetts said. "I have found that I am most successful at getting people to laugh when I give an honest, centered performance. I have to force myself to just be vulnerable and put my trust in the audience to either like me or not."
That sense of comedy isn't something that you have or don't have, Anderson-Rabern said. "You sort of build and structure it according to a very particular part. They're learning the difference between where in the room you focus your eyes to get a laugh."
The play runs about two hours, with an intermission after the first act.
"We're making this an entertaining, super party for the audience and for the actors, but also something that asks the audience to reflect on what it means to watch live theatre and what it means to engage in stereotyping," Anderson-Rabern said. "We're trying to create moments for these more pedagogical, relevant questions."
If You Go
"One Man, Two Guvnors" runs Feb. 11–14 at Franklin & Marshall College's Green Room Theatre. Show times are Feb 11, 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 14 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 ($5 for faculty and staff and $1 for students) and are available through the online box office.
Matthew Tibbetts '16 (Francis)
Molly Minter '19 (Dolly)
Rachel Clifford '18 (Rachel)
Alec Hersh '19 (Stanley)
Kylie Logan '18 (Pauline)
Matthew Butcher '18 (Alan)
Charlie Wynn '16 (Harriet)
Lincoln Keeffe '18 (Charlie)
Kentrell Loftin '16 (Lloyd)
Jason Mitchell-Boyask '16 (Gareth)
James Morogiello '18 (Alfie)
KT Thomas '18 (Multiple)
Kevin Gallagher '17 (Multiple)
Holly Andrew (Band)
Chris Silansky (Band)