A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a comedy set in Ancient Rome, where slaves were fashionable, virgins were regarded as objects to be conquered, and Eunuchs were in abundance.

The basic plot consists of a slave (Pseudolus) trying to buy his freedom from his owner, Hero, who is the son of Senex (a dirty old man) and Domina (a battle axe). Luckily for Pseudolus, Hero has fallen in love with Philia, a virgin who is waiting for Captain Miles Gloriosus to come and claim her, for she has been sold to him by the proprietor of the House of Pleasure, Marcus Lycus. Hero would give anything for Philia---anything including Pseudolus' freedom. The majority of the play revolves around Pseudolus trying to arrange for Hero and Philia to be together forever. He runs into numerous obstacles, including a hysterical Hysterium, the slave-in-chief, and a bumbling old man, Erronius, who arrives home after being abroad for 20 years searching for his children who were stolen in infancy by pirates. The ending is not entirely predictable, and it would be a shame to give it away.

Although the play seems light and fluffy there are a lot of philosophical lessons one can take home from it. Every character is definitely non-PC and is bound to offend some segment of the population. The story is pretty cheesy, as is the acting, but that works well in this setting. The words themselves are crafted incredibly well, with each and every line having a double entendre. This production was an attempt at a Warner Brothers cartoon look: the sets and props were two-dimensional and the reactions of the characters come straight from the cartoons. Glimpses of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck can be found throughout.

The music is pretty good---except for the love songs, the score is pretty catchy and boppy. The production was interspersed with videos made by the cast and crew, but I thought the first video sucked and the other two were okay. The acting had its moments: some of the actors were brilliant and some sucked. In particular, Matt Block as Pseudolus/Erronius, David Solomon as Hysterium, Alex Albrecht as Senex, and Tim Campbell, Scott Ginnetti, and Anthony Dean Tranchina as the Proteans were brilliant and hilarious.

Forum recently opened on Broadway with Nathan Lane (The Birdcage) as Pseudolus and Mark Linn Baker (Perfect Strangers) as Hysterium. While you're already too late for the production I saw (which was at the Experimental Theatre at American University), you can check out the show in New York City.

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