August 26, 2010
The College Light Opera Company’s final production of the summer, Stephen Sondheim’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum,” opens with a flourish, as Prologus (James Soller), in a bejeweled toga, leads the ensemble in a vibrant and entertaining rendition of the best-known song in the show, “Comedy Tonight.”
Directed by Corin Hollifield with music directed by Todd Florin, the play is a farce set in the year 200 BC and based on the plays of the Roman playwright Plautus (254–184 BC). There is also a vaudeville element, great music, witty lines, inventive pantomime, and lots of over-the-top dance moves. It is a fast-paced, warm-hearted show, with plenty of engaging characters, mistaken identities, and many hilarious moments. Definitely a “comedy tonight” worth attending.
In addition to playing the narrator, Mr. Soller is also the lead, the slave Pseudolus, who seeks to obtain his freedom by presenting Hero (Alexander Daly) with Philia (Christine Lacey), a courtesan from Crete. Having caught sight of Philia through a window, Hero knows nothing of love, revealed in his very amusing “Love, I Hear,” of his very recent discovery.
Hero and Philia are young and innocent, both naïve virgins who, with Pseudolus’s careful guidance, know that they love each other, but not much more. Philia is confused by the numbers 3 and 5, and, in “Lovely,” sings of her inability to read and write, add, or do much more than be lovely: “We are taught beauty and grace, and no more.” Ms. Lacey and Mr. Daley are just adorable in this number, their characters’ lack of education is no barrier to their ability to express themselves.
Unfortunately, Philia has already been sold to Miles Gloriosus, a brave and “dazzling” warrior (Brad Baron) who is away at battle when the play opens. Pseudolus hides her in Hero’s house.
Senex (Michael Puglia), Hero’s father, returns unexpectedly from a trip, and thinks that Philia is intended for him. “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” is a wonderful expression of this thought, and Mr. Puglia, along with Mr. Soller, Brandon Grimes as Marcus Lycus, and Mike Dorsey as Hysterium do an outstanding job with this very funny vaudevillesque number.
Mr. Baron is perfect as Miles Gloriosus, who arrives home demanding his bride in a grand, full chorus number called, “Bring Me My Bride,” while Pseudolus tries to trick him into relinquishing Philia.
The Proteans are three men (Ethan Contreras, Scott Wasserman, and Zach Garcia) who play multiple roles, including eunuchs who cannot seem to move without uttering high-pitched twitterings; soldiers; slaves; and citizens—always enlivening the scene.
Amanda Horvath is comically shrewish in her role as Domina, the wife of Senex, about whom Senex warns, “Never fall in love during a total eclipse.”
Courtesans are played by Taylor Jacobson, Emily K. Byrne, Samantha Helmstetter, Brynn Lewallen, Kate Gosnell, and Chelsea Melamed, all alluring in their own way, all extravagantly dressed. Mr. Grimes, as Marcus Lycus, the buyer and seller of courtesans, has a wonderful comic presence throughout.
Connor Lewis is Erronius, who is away throughout most of the play, off seeking his children who were stolen at birth by pirates. He brings laughs as he staggers across the stage several times in his quest to circle the seven hills of Rome seven times, but ultimately provides all the answers.
The set, designed by Tim Boucher, is relatively simple, the facades of three houses in ancient Rome, but they are brightly colored and ornately decorated—and the middle house has a working balcony—and serve as a nice setting for the zany action taking place in and around them. The brilliant array of costumes are designed by Kate Boucher.
The play continues through Saturday, August 28, at 8 o’clock at Highfield Theatre in Falmouth. Tickets are $30 and may be purchased by calling 508-548-0668, or visiting the CLOC box office at the theater. Box office hours are today and tomorrow from 10 AM to 12:30 PM, 2 to 5 PM, and 7 to 9 PM. For more information, visit collegelightopera.com.