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The Venetian Twins

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The Venetian Twins, Trap Door Theatre, at Angel Island. Devotees of commedia dell'arte hated 18th-century playwright Carlo Goldoni because he committed three unpardonable sins. He mixed stock commedia characters, like the flirty Columbine and her comical suitor Harlequin, into plots with more naturalistic characters. He combined commedialike physical comedy with serious drama, like onstage murders. And most controversial of all, he wrote down his plays--commedia was a mostly improvised art.

Goldoni's enemies would have loved Trap Door Theatre's revival of his popular The Venetian Twins. Michael S. Pieper's noisy, headache-inducing nearly three-hour-long production makes a tedious chore of Goldoni's lighthearted masterpiece. In the right hands, the classic if goofy premise--chaos ensues when identical twin brothers turn up in the same town at the same time--can be kind of fun as the cases of mistaken identity pile higher and higher. But Pieper doesn't know when to stop, adding layers of complication to an already complex story and tacking on chase scenes in the background during the plot's quieter moments.

With one or two exceptions, the actors overdo everything--makeup, deliveries, physical movements. Each punch line is underscored three or four times with gestures, funny faces, and double and triple takes. It's as if Pieper wanted to make sure at every moment that we knew he knew he was directing a comedy. No surprise: the show isn't the least bit funny.

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