Photo: Anchal Sharma.

U of O alum shine in Odyssey Theatre’s The Servant of Two Masters

Renowned for its dazzling productions and invaluable use of comedia dell’arte, or comedy using dramatic masks, the Odyssey Theatre company is living up to its reputation with its most recent production, The Servant of Two Masters.

The slapstick-style play directed by former University of Ottawa professor Andy Massingham offers a fresh take on the 18th century-inspired original written by Carlo Goldoni. Massingham has acted in productions of the play twice before, and is now bringing his own brand of flair to the Odyssey Theatre production with a small but dramatic setting change.

Rather than depicting the 18th century, this version of the play is a take on 1950s Venice. The plot follows the life of Truffaldino, a seemingly insatiable servant who is always hungry. In order to satisfy his hunger he decides to work two jobs, and serve two masters. In true ironic fashion, the masters he ends up serving are two seemingly star-crossed lovers.

Massingham believes that this production of the classic play is one like no audience has seen before. “A lot of students have said ‘oh I read that in university’,” he points out.

“I said ‘you haven’t seen what we’re doing with it. It’s not what you read at all. It’s the same plot, the same structure, the same entrances. Goldoni’s play is fantastic, but it’s a new take’.”

General manager James Richardson, who started his own theatre company and recently completed his masters of fine arts and directing at the University of Ottawa, shares the sentiment that this version of the show is more captivating than past productions.

“It’s more edgy,” he says, adding that Massingham is doing his best to reach a younger audience. “There’s this infectious enthusiasm which Andy creates which then elevates the work … and you can feel it onstage from the actors,” says Richardson.  

For students, the production is more relevant than ever, and not just because of its relatable message. As Richardson says, “one of the things Odyssey is about is learning and giving people a place to learn.”

Claire McCracken, who is going into her second year of theatre at the U of O knows this all too well, as she is assistant stage manager and production assistant of the show. “Odyssey Theatre has a great apprenticeship program,” she explains, mentioning that she was part of it two years ago to hone her skills in directing.

“It’s definitely going to help me next year I think, because it’s one thing to sit in a lecture hall and be talked to about all these different areas of theatre, but it’s a complete other thing to be doing it,” she says.  

“As for the show this year, I’m loving it. I love the masks, I think they’re great … I just think it’s something special being in the park.”

Richardson could not agree more, and says he hopes that the audience is able to “walk away having had a magical, enchanting, and rollicking good time,” and that “it’s a beautiful, magical place to be in this park watching the theatre.”

With raving reviews from critics since its opening night on July 21, the show promises to be a charming display of unique comedic talent and a story of compelling hardship.

The Servant of Two Masters is showing at Strathcona Park until Sunday Aug. 21. Tickets can be purchased here or at the Arts Court at 2 Daly Ave.