COMMEDIA DIVINO E PROFANO: OR, SCOURGE OF THE DOOM PIES!, Tripaway Theatre, at TinFish Theatre. It’s not surprising that the once transgressive form of commedia dell’arte has now been mostly relegated to college classrooms and historical re-creation societies. Even when stripped down, commedia involves unparalleled challenges, requiring performers to be lightning quick, razor sharp, and physically agile in a multidimensional style of improvisation that isn’t the norm on this city’s improv stages.
Tripaway–a company known mainly for its off-kilter, unorthodox Shakespeare adaptations–has obviously channeled its anarchic spirit and madcap energy into this commedia update. The first act of Commedia Divino e Profano, an original fable about people in a small town who join together to save the world from impending destruction, is performed in traditional style. And the five cast members prove themselves adept at the intricacies of commedia performance: their improvisation within the structured script is fluid, and their execution of the slapstick-style gags is nearly flawless. Even in their capable hands, however, the play’s first act lacks vitality and spirit.
But the inventive second act, which reinterprets the play’s stock characters and events for the present day, is as decisive a statement of the continued relevance of commedia dell’arte as can be imagined. Unfortunately, one can only get to that sense after enduring the languid, stolid first act. Still, that’s a small price to pay for such a grand epiphany. –Nick Green