BWW Review: A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM at Lebanon Community Theatre
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at LCT
By Christine Koslosky
In the midst of the virus epidemic, Lebanon Community Theatre went on with the show one recent weekend, and several dozen intrepid patrons came out to support the arts in spite of the spate of recent closings and cancellations. LCT was careful to clean and wipe down theater before patrons arrived, and those brave souls who ventured into the company's handsomely appointed barn were well rewarded with this lively, lighthearted show (which even, ironically, includes a few jokes about running from the plague in Crete!).
Director Rick Graybill has produced a colorful and mostly fast-paced comedy musical that is just the tonic for these troubled times. When the slave Pseudolus schemes to win the heart of the beautiful virgin, Philia, for his young master, Hero, in exchange for his freedom, things become complicated by a number of twists and misunderstandings involving a horny old man and his nagging wife, a brothel, an imperious army officer, and plenty of mistaken identities.
Everyone in this production acts and sings with competence and energy; the major players all demonstrate excellent stage presence and a clear energetic enjoyment of the task at hand. The music is impressive: a live orchestra of nine, ably conducted by Katherine Snyder, performs seamlessly in an unseen area (somewhere backstage); in this era of canned music, it's always refreshing to hear live music. Jonathan Shuey has done an outstanding job on sound design and operation, as all the separately miked actors and singers are audible and clear, with none of the sometimes irritating imbalances of volume that can result.
Standouts in the cast include the nervous (and appropriately named) Hysterium, particularly funny when his hands shake uncontrollably in "I'm Calm," and the macho swagger of Jason Capello as Miles Gloriosus, the braggart warrior who has been a stock character in plays since Roman times. In fact, much of the plot of Forum is lifted straight from the farces of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus. If there is one area where LCT's lively production loses its footing, in fact, it might be in the farcical aspect of the performance. An extended period of several characters running in and out of various doors in Act II must be timed to perfection, and although this version might be off by only seconds, it is just enough to intermittently call the audience's attention to the artifice.
Costume designer Mary Graybill has outfitted the performers in togas and sandals for a perfect Roman touch, and Set Designer and Artist Gene Hole (who is also quite funny onstage as Marcus Lycus, the seller of courtesans) has done a wonderful job on the three colorful houses (slightly tilted, with upstairs windows where characters sometimes appear and roofs trimmed with a Greco-Roman key design).
It would be a shame for this excellent production of LCT's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum to close prematurely due to the virus, especially since this is just the kind of happy live theatre experience most of us are so desperately in need of right now.