Sometimes out-of-town guests can really kill your routine. Your fridge is empty and the beer has gone missing. The guest-room is a hot mess, and darn it who borrowed my car and left it at the Metro?
Sometimes though, they’re a delight – and they might just bring a gift from the homeland that you really appreciate. Tut’Zanni Theatre Company is the latter, and with their delightful breed of Commedia dell’Arte, they’re welcome visitors to this year’s Capitol Fringe Festival.
Self-described “vagabonds,” Tut’Zanni travels from festival to festival peddling their artistic wares. In this year’s Fringe production – Love Letter Lost –they bring an artful blend of physical comedy, classic Commedia (Italian-style masked theater) and improvisational humor. The result works.
Love Letter steals a page from Romeo and Juliet with the children of two feuding houses falling in love. Except in this production, there’s no chance meeting, no balcony …really no face-to-face contact at all. And therein lies the problem, because when our heroine sends her lover-to-be a letter to express her affections, a series of unfortunate events leads him to believe the sender is actually Magnifica, the young woman’s mother. Whoops!
From there we’re introduced to one ridiculous character after another – an overbearing mother, a ridiculous sea-captain, a hen-pecked servant…the list goes on and on.
But what makes Love Letter Lost such a delight isn’t the plot. In fact, it hardly bears on the experience at all. Really the plot is simply there to offer a vessel for the improvisational humor that gives the production life.
Throughout the play, audience members are asked to comment, vote, and offer suggested actions for our players to perform on stage. In one scene, the audience is asked to concoct terrible ends for a voodoo doll (and the matron connected to it). No surprise, the audience was delighted to see Magnifica (Molly Tomhave) recoiling, twisting and contorting herself in horror as we chose her fate. That was good fun.
Love Letter Lost
by Tut’Zanni Theatre Company
1021 7th Street NW 3rd Floor
Washington, DC 20001
Details and tickets
And Love Letter is a production without a whole lot of meat on the bones. Again, these aren’t characters you take home with you, and the wit isn’t razor sharp. Love Letter isn’t wry or cutting. What it is is bawdy, silly, and it’s chock-full of cheap ha ha’s.
Who doesn’t love that?
All told, this is a troupe of talented actors who don’t mind deviating from the script, and they were able to keep a theater full of overheated adults richly entertained, which is a feat in and of itself.
In keeping with the masked-art, the actors didn’t match themselves up with characters in the show’s program. But through the wonders of Facebook I can say that Molly Tomhave is delightfully bawdy as Magnifica, and Liam Mulshine’s prancing is a riot. And while it’s hard to specifically credit a masked actor to the effort without a program, Love Letter Lost’s wordless clown was physically strong and a great riot – so job well done, whoever you are.
The cast themselves sit in full view of the audience when they’re not on stage, and they were clearly having just as much fun as we were. And that’s really the spirit that Tut’Zanni Theatre Company brings to their work – have a laugh, and enjoy yourselves.
Welcome to Washington, Tut’Zanni! Come back anytime.