Center Rep stages a classic farce

Working woman triumphs in a classic farce1428796803140_MIRweb.jpg

What’s a single woman to do?  Her dad has just died, leaving her the family business, a local inn.  She’s worked there since she was a kid, so what’s the problem?  The problem is that her challenge arises in 1750s Italy, when independent businesswomen were far from the norm.  She’s drop-dead gorgeous to boot, but that doesn’t help, because every man who spots her starts getting ideas, of tying her to marriage, of bedding her, or of somehow getting his hands on her valuable property.

Her name is Mirandolina, and she’s the mover and shaker in the classic 1753 Carlo Goldoni farce, La Locandiera (The Innkeeper).  It’s called Mirandolina, Mistress of a Tuscan Inn in its current fizzy Center Rep production in Walnut Creek.  If you don’t recognize the playwright’s name, Goldoni’s most famous work, A Servant of Two Masters, has had several Bay Area stagings, the latest of which, a Broadway hit called One Man, Two Guvnors, comes to Berkeley Rep this May.

How does the working-class Mirandolina manage?  Just as did that other 18th century working stiff, Figaro, he of The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville: by brain power.

Mirandolina is bright as well as beautiful.  She’s nervy, too, and her tale runs on the fuel of her sharp wits, as she sets out to teach several predatory men a lesson, especially her inn’s newest guest, a cocky young Cavalieri, who boasts that he’s superior to women and couldn’t possibly succumb to love.  He’s Mirandiola’s greatest challenge, and how she humbles him while fencing with a Count and a Marchese, who have their eyes on her for different reasons, makes for a rollicking evening.

Director Timothy Near’s adaptation, from a translation by Lisa Gottreich, is smart and swift and just modern enough to play off many contemporary enlightened notions of women.  Her Mirandolina is a ringmaster–a ringmistress, that is–cracking her whip while the men around her go through the paces she plans for them, so this Center Rep production offers a satisfying experience to women who want to see their sex get its due, in cleverness, in power and, yes, in love as well–because at the end Mirandolina does decide to marry, but only to the guy she singles out, and it’s clear he’ll have to share the pants with her.

The production is enhanced by its creative team: Nina Ball (set), Victoria Livingston-Hall (costumes), Kurt Landisman (lighting), Theodore J.H. Hulsker (sound), and by the remarkable work of fight director, Dave Maier, who designs a wonderful chase in act two.

The actors are game and capable, headed by sly and limber Tracy Hazas as Mirandolina, and including Michael Butler (the Count), Mark Anderson Phillips (the Marchese), Gabriel Marin (the Cavaliere), Ben Euphrat (Fabrizio), Colin Thomson (Carlo), Lynda DiVito (Ortensia), Lizzie O’Hara (Dejanira), and Joe Metheny (Lucio).

A witty pleasure, Mirandolina plays at the Dean Lesher Center in Walnut Creek until May 3rd.  For tickets/information call 925-943-7469 or visit