Goldoni's `Mistress of the Inn'

The Mistress of the Inn Comedy by Carlo Goldoni. Translated and adapted by Mark A. Michaels. Directed by Robert Kalfin. ``Bit by bit, I shall domesticate this beast,'' announces Mirandolina, the flirtatious but virtuous heroine of Carlo Goldoni's ``The Mistress of the Inn.''

The ``beast'' in question is Il Cavaliere di Ripafratta (Philip Kerr). The newly arrived hotel guest all unwillingly joins Mirandolina's two rival admirers on a fine Italian spring day in 1753.

Cavalier in nature as well as in name, Ripafratta is the kind of misogynist who would make Benedick and Professor Higgins seem like ardent feminists. Domesticating the beast provides the central situation of this Goldoni classic.

Whatever it may lack in stylish finesse, Robert Kalfin's staging of the adaptation by Mark A. Michaels abounds in antic energy and hokum. The Roundabout Theatre revival is an Italianate caper fit for a summer evening.

Tovah Feldshuh's fetchingly spirited Mirandolina manipulates her two fatuous suitors, a Marchese (Edward Zang) and a Conte (George Ede), like string marionettes.

She is only slightly more considerate of Fabrizio (Gabriel Barre), the long-suffering steward designated to be her husband by Mirandolina's late father.

Having, with her wiles and special favors, driven the once arrogant Cavaliere to submissive distraction, Mirandolina decides to mend her ways before it is too late and to wed the durable Fabrizio.

Meanwhile, Goldoni has been lampooning the tight-fisted Marchese, who affects the royal ``we,'' and the boastfully rich Conte even as Il Cavaliere is being reduced to a state of helpless passion and fury.

The director has seized on the Goldoni scenario for a number of Kalfinesque flourishes that include juggling by Mr. Barre and Miss Feldshuh, headlong exits up the aisles, and occasional audience participation.

The picture-book Florentine settings by Wolfgang Roth feature primary colors, solid wood furnishings, and three doors made for slamming. Andrew B. Marlay's costumes were designed to please the eye, and F.Mitchell Dana has lighted the stage for airy farce-comedy.

``The Mistress of the Inn,'' described in a Roundabout press release as the first major production of the comedy in 40 years and the world premi`ere of the Michaels translation-adaptation, is scheduled to run through Sept. 11.

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