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CTC Blog: Behind the Curtain

One Man, Two Names: Commedia dell’Arte Archetypes in One Man, Two Guvnors

One Man, Two Guvnors, directed by Andrew Borba, is playing July 26-August 11 at Bratton Theater, as part of Chautauqua Theater Company’s 2019 season. Tickets are available here.

Richard Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnors reimagines Carlo Goldoni’s commedia dell’arte masterpiece, A Servant of Two Masters, setting the story in Britain in the 1960s. Though the characters in One Man, Two Guvnors have different names than their commedia counterparts, they serve a similar function within the story. Commedia characters were based on archetypes, making them recognizable to audiences from show to show. Below is a selection of One Man, Two Guvnors characters, and their commedia analogs.

One Man protagonist Francis Henshall is based on the commedia archetype of the Harlequin, who is part of the zanni (servant) class. In commedia, the Harlequin is physically agile but mentally incompetent. He frequently becomes entangled in elaborate plots, due to his childishness and distractibility.

Francis isn’t the only One Man character based on a commedia character of the servant class -- his romantic counterpart, Dolly, is too. In commedia, Columbina is the skillful, wise-cracking servant girl, and usually the only source of functional intellect on the stage. She has something to say to -- or about -- everyone. 

Both Francis and Dolly answer to Charlie “The Duck” Clench. Charlie is based on the commedia archetype of the Pantalone, the lusty, penny-pinching patriarch. Though superior in status, he’s gullible, and always winds up everyone’s fool.

Charlie is father to Pauline, who originates from the commedia character of Isabella, one of the innamorati (lovers) with expensive taste. Though spoiled and none-too-bright, Isabella is sympathetic with a heart of gold.

Another of commedia’s lovers is Goldini’s Florindo, who is actually a composite of the innamorati and Capitano archetypes. Capitano talks a big game, but never follows through on his promises. He is a gutless blowhard with a seemingly endless Rolodex of excuses. Florindo appears in One Man as Stanley Stubbers.




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