A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Ryan Mooney as the wily PseudolusA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Book by Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Cathy Wilmot
Music Director Sarah Jaysmith
Choreographer  Dawn Ewen
Fighting Chance Productions
Jericho Arts Centre
Oct 4 - 22, 2011

Peter Stainton as Sennex with the courtesansVancouver, BC: What happens when that ancient Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus meets twentieth century playwrights Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove,  figuratively of course? You get Pseudolus (the play) turned into A funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, where stock characters (young lovers, obstructionary old man, clever slave) play out slapstick comedy with storylines borrowed from ancient Greek theatre.

Add a braggart soldier from another Plautus play Miles Gloriosus, witty lyrics and catchy tunes from Stephen Sondheim's early musical period and you have a wildly, improbably, funny, entertaining piece of theatre with enough Latin and Greek characters to keep a Jeopardy contestant happy.

Here is a summary to help keep all those names straight.

The action takes place in a street in ancient Rome in front of three adjacent houses. 

Cameron Dunster and Elyse MallowayThe first house is owned by a trafficker in courtesans who preys wolf-like on pretty young women. Who is Marcus Lycus? (Stephen Dotto).
Danielle Lemon as DominaIn the middle is the home of an old man and his controlling wife. Who are Sennex? (Peter Stainton) and Domina? (Danielle Lemon). With them lives their son, Hero (Cameron Dunster), a flappable, hysterical head slave  - who is Hysterium?  (Michael Wild) and the wily, confabulating slave - Who is Pseudolus? (Ryan Mooney).

In the third house lives Erronius (Andrew Wade), who has gone off on a fruitless journey to find his long-lost son and daughter who were stolen by pirates as infants.

 In the house of Lycus we have the courtesans, Panacea (Brittany Cairns), Vibrata (Kiki Lipsett), Gymnasia (Ranae Miller) and Titinabula (Sable Strub ) and the Twins - Who are the Geminae? (Rebecca Friesen and Jennifer Kuhl). As well there is the dumb but beautiful, virginal courtesan with whom our Hero is in love - Who is Philia? (Elyse Malloway).

And finally there are those who change form, becoming  slave, soldier, eunuch or citizen of Rome. Who are the Proteans? (Cesar Erba, Morgan Dunne and Jameson Treholme).

Unseen but certainly heard are the members of the Forum Band (Trischa Buhler, Graham Clark, Lena Dabrusin, Daniel Fortin, Sarah Jaysmith and Fran Leavey).

The question for Final Jeopardy is  - It is the plot of A funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Michael Wild and Ryan MooneyThe correct answer is ... What  is that in the absence of Sennex and Domina, Pseudolus is left in charge of Hero. Hero confides that he loves Philia. Pseudolus wants to secure his freedom and conspires with Hero to win Philia, in exchange for his freedom. Unfortunately, Philia has been promised to the braggart soldier, Captain Miles Gloriosus who is interrupting his battles to come to claim her. And things go on from there ?

From the opening notes of "Comedy  Tonight" the cast throw themselves into the farce with energy and enthusiasm. Mooney is a beguilingly appealing Pseudolus who could twist just about everyone round his little finger, and does. Lemon is an awesomely dominating wife and Stainton cringes and treads gingerly around her in the manner of the best hen-pecked husband anywhere. Ramer has a great part to play as the incredibly vain Miles Gloriosus and plays it to the max. Wild was wonderfully fussy as the alternately calm and hysterical head slave. The courtesans wiggle, jiggle and prance around to add a fillip of sexy spice to the show. And every one has a great time.

A funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum runs till the 22nd at Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery Street.  It's lots of fun, and a reminder that Shakespeare borrowed stuff from Plautus too ... the lost son and daughter, identified by special rings - methinks that 's Twelfth Night. And the bard said" neither a borrower or a lender be," Tut Tut.

For tickets call  604-224-8007 # 3  or book online.

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