by Wanda Davis-Miller
I gotta admit the classic "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum" is one of my all-time favorites. The nearly 40 year old musical, with characters and situations filched directly from the ancient works of Plautus, is as fresh today as when it opened on Broadway in 1962. A winner of six Tony awards, the story was written by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, while the critically acclaimed Stephen SOndheim composed the music and lyrics.
The play begins after a rousing opening number. We see a street in ancient Rome and three houses. The first is the ouse of Marcus Lycus, a buyer and seller of the flesh of beautiful women, a "purveyor" if you will. The second is the house of Senex, his imperious wife, Domina, and their son, the handsome and naive Hero. Lastly, the house of the absentee Erronius who has spent his life searching for his son and daughter "stolen in infancy by pirates."
Through the window of the house of Lycus, Hero glimpses Philia, a lovely but simple-minded young woman awaiting delivery to a Roman Army Captain, Miles Gloriosus, who has purchased her from Lycus.
With Hero's parents away, his slave Pseudolus sees a golden opportunity to barter for his freedom by getting the girl for Hero. His scheming begins a merry romp with many frantic detours that eventually involves everyone in the city. The mistaken identities, wild goose chases and the surprising conclusion makes this show a feast for the senses.
The pool of talent available to director Randy Bowser in the Salem area must have made casting this show a very difficult job, although he accomplished it brilliantly.
David Cristobal's zestful portrayal of Pseudolus, the slave who'll do anything for his freedom, is a joy. Effusive and demonstrative, he enthusiasticallyn cavorts his way through the meaty role.
Pentacle veteran Larry Roach as Senex, the lascivioius father of Hero, is perfect. His command of facial expression is outstanding. In him we see a man henpecked by his wife and completely unable to resist a fling with the new "maid." Pat Harle skillfully plays Domina, shifting in the blink of an eye from having to control her man with an iron fist to tender feelings of love for him.
Tom Ulmer's extensive experience as an actor couldn't be more evident as the Slave-in-Chief, Hysterium. He protests loudly but is ultimately drawn into each of Pseudolus' schemes against his will. The screamingly funny scene in which Pseudolus convinces Hysterium he must play the "dead" virgin is itself worth the price of the ticket.
With his outstanding costume and make-up, Dave Davos, who played the part of the nerveless panderer Marcus Lycus, resembles the carnival krewe-members I saw on a recent trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans -- kinda scary-looking, but oh, so cool.
Jacob Tawney and Erin Sutherland, both recent graduates of Dallas High School, perfectly portray the clueless inoocents in love, Hero and Philia. Their pure, clear voices ring with the possibility of a happy ending.
"Forum" is the second Pentacle production for Reuben Marzell Sampson, the powerful but extremely narcissistic Roman Army Captain Miles Gloriosus. He embodies the true spirt of Captain Gloriosus.
Jeff Baer, Alan Kuhnly, and Scott Reichlin are the three Proteans. These guys play a variety of roles that range from eunuchs to Roman soldiers. Without these scene-stealers, this show would be considerably less colorful.
Last but certainly far from least, the Courtesans: Vibrata, Gymnasia, Panacea, Tintinabula, and the Geminae. Played respectively by Carrie Wood (also the choreographer for the production), Evann Remington, Hseree Ross, Heidi Anderson, Brooke Tosdale, and Heather Heartt, these ladies each displayed very individualized "talents."
The set is well thought out and constructed with plenty of open space and depth to accomodate the abundant action. The costumes and make-up were inspired. The only hitch was the sound for Miles' songs. There was some feedback that prevented hearing all of his extremely entertaining lyrics. However, my bet is this will be corrected by the second show.
If you intend to see this musical, you'll want to get your tickets early! (The rest of the article was dedicated to dates and phone numbers.)
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