Center REP gives masterful production of 'Mirandolina! Mistress of a Tuscan Inn'

By Russ Mowrer

April 17, 2015

Currently playing at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek through May 2, “Mirandolina!” follows the comic journey of a woman who is quite ‘hip,’ especially considering that the play’s setting is in the mid-18th century. It’s a story about a woman (superbly played by Tracy Hazas) trying to have it all – she wants to run a successful business on her own and have a successful loving relationship, all at the same time.

As an innkeeper, she’s all business as she wins over the hearts of her guests, while at the same time, not being bashful about taking their money.

On the romantic side she is wooed by a trio of suitors, and the savvy Mirandolina toys with each of them including the penniless Marchese (excellently portrayed by Mark Anderson Phillips), who has nothing more to his name than his title; the Count (played by the multi-talented Center Rep artistic director Michael Butler); and the handsome footman Fabrizio (Ben Euphrat). 

As fate would have it, her late father promised her hand to the stalwart troubadour/servant, but she isn’t interested in settling down just yet. And the more the men faun over her, the more she values her independence.

With all of the attention she gets, Mirandolina takes it all in stride with a ho-hum attitude. Instead, she decides to challenge herself to win over Cavaliere (played by veteran performer Gabriel Marin, who is perfect in this role). Unfortunately, he makes the error of declaring his invincibility in the face of love, which could prove fatal in winning her over.

Armed with a great deal of wit, “Mirandolina” poses the challenge of declaring her independence while at the same time trying to find true love. Will she succeed and get it all? This battle-of-the-sexes caper about a woman trying to run a business in a man’s world in the 18th century drives that question home. Interestingly, this question may be as pertinent today as it was back in the time of Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni. 

While the storyline is engaging, the exquisite period costumes (Victoria Livingston-Hall) and set designs (Nina Ball) are truly spectacular! 

'Mirandolina! beautifully staged by Center REP in Walnut Creek'

By Kedar K. Adour

April 21, 2015

Mirandolina! Mistress of a Tuscan Inn: Comedy by Carlo Goldoni. Adapted and directed by Timothy Near., Center REPertory Company, 1601 Civic Dr. Walnut Creek, CA. 925-295-1400 or April 7 –May 2, 2015.

Mirandolina! beautifully staged by Center Rep in Walnut Creek 

Rating: ★★★★★

PR releases for Mirandolina: Mistress of a Tuscan Inn state it is an adaptation by the legendary Timothy Near of a ‘literal translation’ by Lisa Gottreich.  The question arises as to what constitutes a literal translation? Among the many synonyms of ‘literal’ are accurate, authentic, unvarnished and even simple. Take your choice while this reviewer opts for the unvarnished moniker since the production has enough innuendo with comedia del arte touches to keep you chuckling long after the curtain descends.

Timothy Near who directed this/her adaptation of Goldini’s comedy adds another star to her curriculum vitae after her stunning, award winning mounting of Rumors at Center REP in 2012. She has brought along husband/Center REP Artistic Director Michael Butler, Gabriel Marin and Mark Anderson Phillips from that show to fill key roles in this hilarious production. But the major accolades go to the ladies who put the egotistical male characters in their places even though they are theoretically the masters of women in this 1783 play.

Beautiful and independent Mirandolina (Tracy Hazas ) is running a Tuscan Inn at a time when women were considered incompetent to do so. She is in love with her handyman Fabzio (Ben Euphrat) whom she wishes to marry. Meanwhile the impecunious Marchese di Forlipopoli (Mark Anderson Phillips) and egotistical money-rich Count d'Albafiorita, (Michael Butler) vie for her favor. The foppish Marchese wants the dowry/money that will be attached to marriage with her. The Count, the cad, wishes her to be married so that he can take her as his mistress!

Then there is the professed misogynist Cavaliere di Ripafratta (Gabriel Marin) who wants nothing to do with women. Don’t you just love the pompous male titles? He is about to get his comeuppance when Mirandolina cleverly tricks him into falling in love with her.

The pieces are not yet all in place since Goldoni introduces two beautiful actresses Ortensia (Lynda Di Vito) and Dejanira (Lizzie O’Hara) to further complicate the plot as they side with the Count to throw all into further awry. Not to be forgotten is Center REP favorite Colin Thomson playing Carlo, the Cavaliere’s Servant to add further humor to the plot(s).

Tracy Hazas is a statuesque beauty who plays the Mistress with authority and has comedic skills to carry off the necessary deception of Cavaliere who ends up unable to resist her. The accomplished Michael Butler adds the right schtick to his performance to steal more than one scene from his cohorts. You will not recognize Mark Anderson Phillips as he immerses himself in the foppish role of the Marchese but hardly comes off as second best. Then there is Gabriel Marin’s supercilious Count that often takes center stage bringing laughter with his asides to the audience. Dave Mair deserves a Tony for his staging of a duel to end all duels between Marin and Butler.

To top all this great acting and directing are the stunning costumes by Victoria Livingston Hall and Nina Ball’s magnificent set with a central revolving stage that keeps the non-stop action zipping along at full speed even though the three hour running (with an intermission) time is a bit too much.  Highly recommended.  Your trip to the Lesher Center REP venue will delightfully transport you to: The Age of Enlightenment, circa 1750. Mirandolina ‘s Inn, Florence, Italy.

Cast: Mirandolina, Tracy Hazas; Fabrizio, Ben Euphrat; The Marchese di Forlipopoli ,Mark Anderson Phillips; The Count d'Albafiorita, Michael Butler; The Cavaliere di Ripafratta, Gabriel Marin; Ortensia, Lynda Di Vito; Dejanira, Lizzie O’Hara; Carlo, the Cavaliere’s Servant, Colin Thomson; Luclo, a servant of the Inn, Joe Metheny; Sirena, a servant of the Inn, Kathryn Butler.

Creative Team: Directed by Timothy Near; Set Design by Nina Ball; Lighting Design by Kurt Landisman; Costume Design by Victoria Livingston Hall; Sound Design by Theodore J. H. Hulsker; Stage Managed by Nicole Langley.

'Mirandolina! is alive and well at Center REP'

By Richard Connema

April 23, 2015

Mirandolina is alive and well and at Center REPertory of Walnut Creek until May 2nd. Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni wrote about this mistress of a Tuscan inn in 1753 as a three-act comedy. Since that time the story has been adapted in many ways to delight audiences. Henry Kimball Hadley made it into a one-act comic opera in 1918, there was a 1988 Roundabout Theatre Company production of Mark A. Michaels's adaptation starring Tovah Feldshuh, and there have been two Italian films about the exploits of this level-headed woman.

Center REP has managed an extraordinary feat, with a new, very silver-tongued translation, direction by Timothy Near, and some of the company's finest actors. Near has given the production the look and feel it must have had when it premiered in 1793.

Goldoni replaced conventional commedia dell'arte with characters as ordinary people. He was not turned off to women but saw them as an astonishing force. They were the very heart of the Italian theater. Everyone falls under the spell of the tough, sexy, and audacious innkeeper in this lovely Italian comedy. She is feverishly courted by a lascivious rich Count, a dithering girl-shy cavalier, and an impoverished popinjay Marchese—all the while hanging onto the handsome Fabrizio, both her fiancé and employee.

Tracy Hazas is excellent as Mirandolina. She plays the role as a sassy, enticing, and devilishly seductive woman, but with a level head on her shoulders. She is an eighteenth century woman and not a twenty-first century feminist. She wonderfully plays the complex game of stratagem between the sexes as well as between the nobility and the skilled working class that she epitomizes.

Gabriel Marin is outstanding as the Cavaliere di Ripafratta, an avowed woman-hater who would seem to be no suitor at all. He gustily equates being in love with women with a foolish pastime so, of course, Mirandolina feels that she will win him over. He skillfully changes from hating all women to madly loving one.

Mark Anderson Phillips is a delight playing the Marquis of Forlipopoli. He stylishly plays the role of fallen aristocrat with the style of 18th century Italian comedy. Michael Butler is pitch perfect as the Count of Albafiorita. He is full of bravo and boisterous masculinity and is a somewhat foolish male.

Ben Euphrat nicely plays the handsome Fabrizio with a certain amount of humility. He also splendidly sings ballads composed by Michael Butler. Colin Thompson gives a nice performance as a deadpan butler to the Cavaliere.

Also on board are Lizzie O'Hara and Lynda DiVito playing two actresses. They are handsome and colorful to look at and they add some fun to this two and half hour production.

All of the characters are attractively and accurately costumed and bewigged in the style of the period by Victoria Livingston-Hall. Nina Ball has designed three handsome sets on a turntable and there is some fancy fencing between Gabriel Marin and Michael Butler in the second act, thanks to fight director Dave Maier. All of this makes for a comical production that is original and fun to watch.

Mirandolina! Mistress of a Tuscan Inn runs through May 2nd, 2015, at the Margaret Lesher Theatre in the Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Center Drive, Walnut Creek. For tickets call 925-943-7469 or visit Coming up next is Cole Porter's lively musical Anything Goes opening On May 22nd and running through June 27th.

Classic farce 'Mirandolina! gets winning revival at Center Rep

By Karen D'Souza

April 8, 2015

Mirandolina finds far more than romance under the Tuscan sun.

As one of Carlo Goldoni's feisty femme fatales, the protagonist in "Mirandolina! Mistress of a Tuscan Inn" is an innkeeper who collects the hearts of her guests, as well as their coins. She's all business in Timothy Near's fun and refreshing adaptation of the 1753 rom-com, getting its world premiere by Center Repertory Company. The lively, if uneven, commedia dell'arte romp runs through May 2 at Walnut Creek's Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts.

Near, who also directs, puts the buckle in the swash in this charming revival, which combines gorgeous period costumes (Victoria Livingston-Hall), handsomely appointed scenery (set by Nina Ball) and high-flying fencing (fight choreography by Dave Maier). While the show occasionally suffers from some sluggish pacing, notably in the first act, it's hard to resist the wit and charm of this door-slamming farce.

Wooed by a trio of silly suitors, the savvy Mirandolina (Tracy Hazas) dallies with them all. As pragmatic as she is pretty, the innkeeper toys with affections of penniless fop Marchese (an exquisite Mark Anderson Phillips), the nouveau riche Count (Center Rep artistic director Michael Butler), and faithful footman Fabrizio (Ben Euphrat). Her late father once promised her hand to the stalwart troubadour/servant, but she can't be bothered to settle down just yet. The more the men moon over her, the more she prizes her freedom.

Indeed, all the admiration is a bit of a bore, so she challenges herself to win over the misogynistic Cavaliere (a pitch-perfect Gabriel Marin). He makes the fatal error of declaring his invincibility in the face of love, which he equates with walking pneumonia, and she feels honor-bound to take up the challenge.

Hazas radiates strength and intelligence playing a woman of substance in a trivial world. Marin throws himself into a mosh pit of double-entendres with gusto. Euphrat lends his ballads a melancholy sexiness. Phillips manages to find sensitivity in the follies of a fallen aristocrat. Colin Thomson never met a laugh he couldn't milk as Cavaliere's deadpan butler, Carlo.

Alas, Goldoni, the great Venetian playwright famed for "Servant of Two Masters," is sometimes funnier on the page than the stage. Near, former head of San Jose Repertory Theatre, directs with a light touch, but the first act lacks pep, and the last act needs more of a breakneck pace to make the farce pop. A little more speed would give the zaniness more zip.

The swordplay certainly delights when Marin and Butler duel each other into a dither on the revolving stage. There's also a juicy bit of shtick involving the pompous Marchese scrambling to catch the loose change from the Count's pocket.

But there are times when the punch lines fall flat. A storyline spinning around two ditsy, gold-digging actresses (Lynda DiVito and Lizzie O'Hara) pretending to be nobility never pans out in laughter. The competition between the dandies vying for Mirandolina's attention never quite reaches a fever pitch. And there are more sparks flying between Mirandolina and Cavaliere than between her and her true love, Fabrizio, which throws off the play's chemistry, its delicate balance of lust and swooning.

Still these are quibbles in light of the many appealing performances on display in this Florentine battle of the sexes.