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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

Finding poignancy amid the slapstick in ‘The Servant of Two Masters’

Director Christopher Bayes often brings up the term “over the top’’ in rehearsal. “It is usually used to talk about bad acting, but it comes from World War I with the guys in the trenches,’’ he says. “If you go over the top, it is an act of courage. If you don’t, there is no chance of winning. You sit in your own mud, among other things.”

Even though his Yale Repertory Theatre production of “The Servant of Two Masters” goes over the top and beyond, both Bayes and actor Steven Epp, who plays the titular flunky, contend that there is a sense of tragedy lurking beneath the surface, like a tear running beneath the mask of a clown. In one scene, the servant, Truffaldino, bemoans his slavish fate, and in another, two women sing a lament about lost love.

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