Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pizza Theater

Carter Gill as Pulcinella in Commedia dell'Artichoke. Photo credit: Jacob J Goldberg Photo.
Commedia dell'Artichoke is based on commedia dell'arte, a form of theater from 16th century Italy characterized by masks and improvisation, but it may also have invented a new genre--pizza theater. At the Gene Frankel Theatre, where the show is playing through February 6, every audience member is given a slice of pizza from Artichoke Basille's Pizza. If Artichoke decides to sponsor more theater in the future, I don't think anyone would complain.

Shannon Marie Sullivan as Smeraldina.
Photo credit: Jacob J Goldberg Photo. 
The pizza isn't just incentive to see the show. There's a theatrical reason too. The play takes place in Pulcinella's pizza shop and he must find a way to pay his increase in rent or face eviction. Before the start of the performance, we were told to just have fun and not think too much, but it seemed at times like the creators did want us to think about issues like capitalism and misogyny. Due to the nature of commedia dell'arte, most of these are tangents and not explored in depth enough to be thought provoking.

The play was conceived by Frances Black, Carter Gill, Tommy Russell, directed by Devin Brain, and created/performed by Gill, Russell, Alexandra Henrikson, and Shannon Marie Sullivan. They've really committed to the authenticity--bringing on Christopher Bayes as commedia consultant and wearing appropriately grotesque and expressive masks by Emilia Buescher, Den, Jordan Allen-Dutton, and Mister Face. It's hard to know who contributed what, especially because the cast is so skilled at improvising that it all seems like part of the script. I didn't look closely at my program before the show, so I was sure there were six to eight actors performing. It was only during the curtain call that I realized there were only four. Well, five if you count Robert Cowie, the composer who spends the evening at the piano, providing almost a second show.

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