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ART FOR SALE

nytheatre.com review by Lynn Marie Macy
August 15, 2012

Tut’Zanni Theatre Company was formed by American students who met one another at the Accademia dell’ Arte physical theater school in Arezzo Italy.

The company’s primary inspiration is Commedia Dell’ Arte, the traditional Italian street theatre with its comic stock characters like Pantelone and Arrlechino (the French Harlequin may be more familiar). Commedia as a tradition spread its influential characters across Europe and archetypes can be noted in the writing of Shakespeare and Moliere among others.In fact, you need only head uptown for Broadways One Man Two’ Guvnors to see Commedia dell’ Arte inspired comedy. Tut’Zanni ‘s stated goal is to take these recognizable stock characters and place them in modern situations.

This is an interesting idea but the experiment was not completely successful. Very little of their “story” and language could be characterized as strictly modern and if that was indeed their goal the group did not go far enough to bring these stock Commedia Characters into the modern world. I understand another goal was to create theater everyone can understand but there are pitfalls to this as well. The Actors perform their parts in traditional masks and while it is interesting to see the masks in action – the material was so overly simplified and the acting so stylized it all came across as a performance for very young children (other than the frequent sexual innuendos). The over arching idea is a troupe of actors trying to put on a performance but due to a number of mishaps and problems their intended “show” hit the skids.

The best part of Tut’Zanni’s performance is the music. Everyone plays instruments and sings beautifully in Italian during the shadow puppet work.  And the closer the group came to the Italian roots of Commedia the better and more delightful their performance became. Proving that engaging theatre no matter how “traditional” can still be universal and “timeless”.  The Actors Ali Landvatter (Brighella), Dory Ford Sibley (Dottore), Patrick Berger (Arlecchio), Liam Mulshine (Capitano), Molly Tomhave (Pantelone /Colombina at the performance I saw) and Allegra Libonati (Pantelone/Colombina) are all skilled in physical theatre and I think this newly formed company has a charming and novel idea that needs more development in order to elevate the material and upgrade the comedy quotient. They might also explore developing and presenting a traditional extant Italian canovaccio to American audiences. Who on this side of the pond has ever seen that?