by Pamela Reichen
The Quintessence Theatre Group is launching its second season with two classic comedies: Carlo Goldoni’s “The Venetian Twins,” in a translation by Ranjit Bolt, and William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” to be presented in repertory and directed by Alexander Burns. “The Venetian Twins” will start previews on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 7 p.m., and open on Saturday, Oct. 8, 8 p.m. “The Merchant of Venice,” will start previews on Wednesday, Oct. 12, and open on Friday, Oct. 21, 8 p.m. Performances are Wednesday, Oct. 5, through Sunday, Nov. 20, at the Sedgwick Theater, 7137 Germantown Ave.
In “Twins,” separated in childhood, two Venetian twins unexpectedly arrive in Verona looking for love. Mistaken identities and madness ensue. Stolen jewels, lovers’ duels and a death by poison fuel Carlo Goldoni’s 1748 comic masterpiece. Influenced by Molière and inspired by the famous twin comedies of Plautus and Shakespeare, Goldoni reformed commedia dell’arte by removing the masks and introducing psychological realism and social commentary.
In “Merchant,” a game involving three caskets will decide which suitor marries the beautiful heiress Portia. The fate of three merchant ships will ensure the Christian merchant Antonio’s fortune. And 3000 ducats borrowed from Shylock, a rich Jewish merchant, to allow Bassanio a chance to win Portia will cost Antonio his life if the bond is forfeit. Shakespeare’s timeless and complex romantic comedy challenges the power of faith, the power of money and the power of love, and asks what role mercy and justice play in mitigating these forces.
Quintessence Theatre Group is Philadelphia’s new professional classical theatre company, dedicated to the performance and adaptation of epic works of classic drama and literature for the contemporary stage. According to Alexander Burns, “Rooted in the traditions of classical drama, we explore what is essential in theatre and human nature, igniting the mind of artists and audiences through the power of the live actor, design and the spoken word.
“Over the next five years Quintessence will work to establish an acting ensemble and a rotating repertory at the historic Sedgwick Theater. The Venetian Repertory marks Quintessence’s first demonstration of the power of a repertory ensemble. Quintessence will continue its residency at the historic Sedgwick Theater, playing a central role in the renaissance of main street Mt. Airy.”
A discussion on Goldoni and Commedia will take place with director Burns before “The Venetian Twins” on Thursday, Oct. 27. A discussion with the cast will take place after the show on Wednesday, Nov. 9.
A discussion with the cast of “Merchant of Venice” will take place after the show on Wednesday, Oct. 26. A discussion on Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and Merchant” will take place with director Burns before the show on Thursday, Nov. 17.
Performances take place on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m.