Frenzy in Commedia dell’Arte

When we talk about frenzy it has much to do with the organization of a canovaccio. We can build a canovaccio where the energy itself plays the main part. Surprise after surprise until the frenzy reaches its peak. This is the anarchistic turmoil we can see in The Marx Brother or Fawlty Towers, where the organized conformity of the world is turned up-side-down. Usual themes are imposition or catastrophes that only get worse and worse.

Tea18

In the first example, imposition, we have, for example, the classical food-stealing-scene. A zanni steals food from a mask with higher status and usually gets away with it. But it doesn’t stay there he keeps stealing in more refined and unexpected way, while the other mask – who might be deeply involved in something else – get more and more frustrated.
In the other example there is a chain of catastrophes happening as in a crescendo, in the middle of this there is a mask trying desperately to put everything back in order. This is much about the energy and desire of the mask and the actor. It does not demand a complicated or refined plot. It is enough with a zanni working hard to clean the floors while the other masks come in with dirty shoes, or the classic dinner-serving-lazzo in “Arlecchino – Servitore di due Padroni”.
Here a too complicated plot could mess up and take away the focus from the fun in the scene. The scene or lazzo is totally depending on the energy of the mask. The more desperate the mask are trying to solve his problem the more fun it is for the spectator, since comedy is I based on unbalance (in direct or in a figurative sense) and we laugh at his struggle to retain balance.

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