– By Lisa Hamilton
The Fabulous Journey is a fabulous piece of tiramisu: sweet, but not cloying;
traditional, but fresh; and perfectly Italian through and through.
The commedia dell’arte Maner Manush of Rome brings to aactWORLDFEST salutes the
traveling theatre troupes of the 14th -17th centuries that likely originated with the Carnival
of Venice (Italy), spreading throughout Europe. The theatrical form of scripted
improvisation contains several stock elements, including scenarios, characters, leather
masks, and pantomimes. Commedia dell’arte is generally considered the rebirth of
women on the stage, who hadn’t been seen acting since antiquity. And as almost any
actress or actor can tell you, commedia dell’arte (“comedy of the profession”) is credited
with producing the first performances for which actors were regularly paid.
The Pinkerton Theatre’s seating for 90 is a perfect, intimate setting for The
Fabulous Journey. Two actors—a man and a woman—charm the audience with their
rendition of how commedia dell’arte made its way from the Italian Renaissance to
modern-day Venice, Florida. Although proudly rooted in its history, Maner Manush’s
production is fresh in its engaging and gentle fun, innovating with stock characters such
as know-it-all Il Dotorrie, pantomiming Harlequin, and the braggart Captain, who wears
his traditional mask. A flash of Walt Whitman’s “O Captain, My Captain” only added to
humor birthed in the Renaissance.
Maner Manush is the only group to perform at every festival since 2010, and I for
one certainly hope to see the delightful troupe again next time. The standing ovation as
the hour-long performance ended was well deserved.
One of the joys of the production is that audience members find themselves
laughing whether the performers are communicating in English, Italian, or pantomime –
making the performance a good choice for those with hearing difficulties. The almost
slapstick comic elements make it a good choice for children as well. For everyone, the
imaginative use of simple props and finely-tuned acting makes The Fabulous Journey a
fabulously enjoyable choice at this year’s aactWORLDFEST.