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Tales of Love and Sausages

Venue: Studio Theatre- Mead Theatre

Remaining Performances:

Thursday, July 22, at 8 p.m.
Sunday, July 25, at 11 a.m.

They Say: Physical comedy about heartache and hunger pangs. Produced in the classical comic style of Commedia dell’Arte, this family-friendly laughfest features famous masked characters such as Arlecchino (Harlequin) and Pantalone (the Pantaloon) in traditional scenarios of pounding hearts and growling stomachs.

Sophia’s Take: I was determined to be a serious, thoughtful reviewer. I got out my note pad. In the course of the first scene I bothered to scribble “Adonis… before he gored by wild boar.” Then I gave up taking notes and gave in to my giggles because ‘Tales of Love and Sausages’ is really, really funny. Not in a deep, truthful, politically satirical, all you can do is laugh at the human tragedy sort of way. It’s funny because repetition, goofy faces, and masks with huge noses are funny; falling in love leads to ludicrous behavior and sausages make very useful metaphors.

Directed by Faction of Fools Theatre Company’s artistic director, Matthew R. Wilson, and teaching artist Toby Mulford, the show is performed in the style of Commedia dell’Arte.  Developed in 16th century Italy, the style asks an actor to create the physicality and personality of a specific character, or “Mask,” based on a more archetypal character.

There is not much in the way of plot in Commedia. Instead, an ensemble of such players is familiar with the outlines of many well-known scenarios, like two sets of lovers meeting in the woods, or incompetent servants attempting a basic chore. The “writing” or content of the scenes is largely improvised.  The program for Tales of Love and Sausages features seven scenes, four of which get played during each performance. So no two shows, no two combinations of scene, are ever exactly the same, and the work is truly created by all involved.

It’s obvious that some of the players in the nearly 30-member ensemble of ‘Love and Sausages’ have more experience with Commedia dell’Arte, and are therefore more comfortable in the style. The timing in some scenes is more spot-on than in others. Yet all the cast members are playful physical comedians, capable of delivering a lot of laughs. They also won’t hesitate for a moment to make sport with anyone wearing a bad shirt or sitting within reach of the stage. If you’re shy and easily embarrassed, stay clear of the aisles and first row. I’d love to include as many names here as possible, but as I said I was distracted from taking useful notes. Not to mention, there are more characters named Isabella, Flavio, and Zanni than anyone could be expected to keep track of.

It’s great fun to watch this group’s fancy foot and mask work and interesting to get a flavor for a theatrical style that is still influencing contemporary comedy.

See it if: You’re a theater geek, history buff, child-at-heart, hungry, horny, or too hot to play outdoors.

Skip it if: You like your humor dry as the Sahara; in that case Commedia might not be your thing.