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The Comedy of the Marks

By Alan Richardson


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or "A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Piazza"

The setting is a 17th century Venetian Inn. Lucietta, the tempestuous landlady of the establishment has set her sights on one of her guests, Angus Nairn, an exiled Scottish Laird, but with his dour reserve and her Latin temperament, the chances of a romance seem remote until the arrival of a runaway wife with a sad story, followed by a philanthropic English milord, the deadliest swordsman in Turin and an Italian maid with an odd accent. The newcomers transpire to be a penniless company of Commedia Dell'Arte actors. Their efforts to rehearse their latest appalling production with a trainee Harlequin, a Pantalone played with a would-be Shakespearian tragedian and a hero with a hangover are interwoven with Angus's ill-fated attempts to woo Lucietta with the aid of an aphrodisiac, which cause unexpected and hilarious results. Lucietta, in turn, has encouraged another two rivals for her affections, a stratagem, which she hopes will provoke a jealous response from Angus, but her scheme goes awry when one of the actors becomes too earnest a rival and challenges Angus to a duel. The next morning the rivals clash swords, but a combination of fate, furtiveness and feminine guile guarantees a happy ending.