There's a certain artistic freedom for a company presenting a play with a familiar plot. The actors can set aside any notion of inciting an audience to think, analyze, or concentrate. The audience, too, is let off the hook and can safely relax in the ambience of something they don't have to bother to interpret. Wade McIntyre and his Meadows Basement troupe provide a very fair exchange with their hilariously silly adaptation of Flaminio Scala's 16th century commedia, loosing a horde of stock dell'arte characters to do their worst in the comic tradition of Italian street performers, using mistaken identities, romantic quadrangles, ham-handed swordplay, risible names, perverted clowns, and true love-all engendering roars of laughter.
Without giving away the plot: Against a nondescript backdrop that sports a door to The Inn and two lovelorn windows for romantic trysts (set by Paul Eric Pape), two sparring siblings, Oration (Ira Steck) and Flavio (Elijha Mahar), vie for the favors of Flaminia (Kirk), a spoiled Tuscan princess who has mastered the art of manipulating her perfect little world. Pantalone (Scott Blackburn), the coy mistress' father, has his eyes on the gold of Captain Spavento (Steven Bakken) in return for his daughter's virginity. Spavento, however, who has a sexually ambivalent relationship with his porter, Arlecchino (a very funny Jon Molerio), is the scoundrely object of the beautiful Isabella's (Samantha Montgomery) search for the cad who took her dowry and shamelessly jilted her. Dressed as a French serving girl, she and her servant, Burattino (crazy-funny Matt Saunders), are intent on infiltrating the local circle of lovers and sluts, cuckolds and clowns, until Amor, who has been busy with the innkeeper, Pedrolino's (Brandon Moynihan) wife, Franceschina (Janie Haddad), and her two sly lovers, Pantalone and Dr. Gratiano (Andy Mangin), the father of the two battling siblings, starts playing his little tricks.
According to the program's credits, the play is "plagiarized by Wade McIntyre, from a scenario by Flaminio Scala, misdirected by Aaron Ginsberg, and overacted by the cast." Which is exactly the treatment that should have been afforded this hugely amusing piece of nonsense. Suspending disbelief is absolutely no problem; indeed, it's a joy in this dizzy, ridiculously cockeyed, nonstop entertainment.
Makeup, which is uncredited, consists of traditionally painted-on commedia masks, plus outrageous costumes by Kirk and lighting by Michael Resnick, add curative humor to a side-splitting production.
"Isabella's Fortune," presented by Meadows Basement Theater at Theatre/Theater, 6425 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m. Sun. 7 p.m. Mar. 12-Apr. 18. $15. (323) 782-6218.