By ANNA ROSENSWEIG
To sit in a Ten Thousand Things audience is to become part of the show. The company performs in small, often unconventional spaces that make boundaries between actors and audience thin and porous. What’s more, Ten Thousand Things performs in the round and keeps the house lights on, so that the actors can see the audience, and members of the audience can see each other. These staging practices heightened the pleasure of Il Campiello, which is nothing short of hilarious. It was a total delight to see fellow spectators smile and laugh while watching Stephen Epp’s adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s eighteenth-century farce.The fact that the performance creates such feelings of camaraderie is consonant with its setting, a campiello (small square) inhabited by six women, and a few men who are the objects of their affection. Life in the square first emerges through Stephen Mohring’s sets, which consist of easel-like structures that simply but effectively frame each household, and serve as the foundations for marriage plots, neighborly rivalries, and inter-generational spats.
A palpable chemistry between the ensemble cast renders these quarrels and squabbles as poignant as they are amusing. Together the actors portray the community as a whole just as vividly as the individual characters, a rare feat that comes off without a hitch. Stand-out performances include that of Kimberly Richardson, who coyly charms as the shy Agnese, a young girl who becomes literally queasy about the possibility of marriage. Sarah Agnew is uproariously funny as Agnese’s mother, and delivers some of the play’s most bawdy visual gags.
Life is not all fun and games for the women in the campiello, and yet such distractions help shore up reserves of fortitude in the face of hardship. It’s not that suffering and joy are opposed in this play, but rather that they function as complementary facets of life. Suffering produces laughter. And laughter engenders suffering as well as solace. By soliciting care and warmth in addition to laughs, director Michelle Hensley ensures that this comedy moves audiences while it entertains them.
It’s abundantly clear that this production has the capacity to move and entertain many different audiences. Continuing a commitment to bring excellent theater to audiences who might not typically have access to it, Ten Thousand Things performs Il Campiello in several area prisons. The company also offers free public performances around the Twin Cities, in addition to its paid performances at Open Book and Plymouth Congregational Church. By making each audience a part of its practice, Ten Thousand Things skillfully taps into theater’s unique ability to create shared experiences of both pain and pleasure.
By Carlo Goldoni
Adapted by Stephen Epp
Ten Thousand Things Theater Company
3153 36th Ave S
October 28 – November 20
Tickets –$25 ($15 Students on Sundays); Free (with reservation)
Tickets may be purchased or reserved on-line at