The Three Cuckolds

At the Blue Theatre, you can see an outstanding example of commedia dell-arte in Tongue and Groove Theatre's awesomely entertaining production of 'The Three Cuckolds'

Arts Review

The Three Cuckolds

Blue Theater, through Aug. 27

Running Time: 2 hrs, 20 min

Commedia dell'arte. Loosely translated: the art of comedy. A theatrical form popular in 16th-century Italy centering on stories of love and intrigue, with stock characters like the young lovers, the rich old man, and the comic servant, and improvised moments of off-the-cuff mayhem, known as lazzi, tossed in to further spice the loud, broad, energetic mix.

Right now, but not for much longer, you can travel back in time and see an outstanding example of what this genre must have been like in the Tongue and Groove Theatre's production of The Three Cuckolds, a play by Leon Katz adapted by Bill Irwin and further adapted by director David Yeakle – no slaves to historic or modern convention are these Tongue and Groovers. Here you will find Il Pantalone, the wealthy old man of commedia, played by Craig Matthew Staggs, transformed into a rich Texan, complete with 10-gallon hat and cigar, whose every entrance is punctuated by the sound of a ringing cash register. Here you will find Leandro, the young lover of commedia, played by Geoffrey Brown as a Hispanic youth whose every entrance is accompanied by hip-hop music and who is determined to make a cuckold of Pantalone's neighbor, Coviello. Here you will find Arlecchino, the comic servant, played by Jason Newman, whose most ardent wish is for some food (and, if he can obtain it, a warm female body). Arlecchino attempts to assist Coviello in making a cuckold out of Pantalone as well as help Franceschina make a cuckold out of her husband, Zanni.

Ah! Zanni! Blake Smith is a young man, but here, with head shaved completely bald, a long tuft of white beard clinging precariously to the tip of his chin, body bent and angular, cane leading the way, Smith's Zanni embodies age and lust so thoroughly that you really will feel his pain and his, umm, passion. And I haven't even mentioned the astounding noses or the delightful dancing or the amusing props or the dozen or so different costumes that Elizabeth Doss' Flaminia wears, one for each new entrance.

How did this so often impressive production happen? Given the virtually complete marriage of visual and aural expression and the performances that appear to have been cut from illustrations and pasted onto the stage, I can only bow to director Yeakle and say, "Bravo! Bravissimo!" At times it's too slow, at times too soft, at times too loud, but it's always of a piece, always like viewing the past through the lens of the present, and always highly and, dare I say it, awesomely entertaining.

Commedia dell'arte. Loosely translated, the art of comedy – and "art" is a word I try not to use liberally. If you've ever wanted to do a little time traveling (and who hasn't?), then you need travel no farther than the Blue Theatre in Austin, Texas, to see an outstanding example of an ancient art form approaching its most sublime expression.

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The Three Cuckolds, Tongue and Groove Theatre, Leon Katz, Bill Irwin, David Yeakle, Craig Matthew Staggs

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