Bay Street Theatre’s summer production of “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” originally opened on Broadway on May 8, 1962 and is based on a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, with music and lyrics by Stephen Soundheim. This production, directed and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge, will run as part of Bay Street Theater’s Main Stage Season from August 6 – September 1, 2013.
The lyrics of the opening song promise “tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight,” and that is exactly what this production delivers. It is an hour and a half escape from the world outside into a colorful, farcical depiction of ancient Rome. It is all a little silly, but it’s supposed to be, and the play is proud of it.
Peter Scolari, who played alongside Tom Hanks in the early 80’s TV show “Bosom Buddies,” is excellent as Psuedolus, coyly and energetically leading the audience through the scenes of the play with the confidence and timing only a seasoned actor and comedian can bring.
The set by Michael Schweikardt consists of three boldly colored houses of Roman noblemen. Each house is richly detailed, striking to look at, and very well done. The same attention to detail and bold perfection comes through in the makeup and costumes.
Most impressive is the cast itself. Conrad John Schuck as Senex and his overbearing wife Domina (Jackie Hoffman) make a hilarious pair. Tom Deckman as Hysterius is hysterical, both literally and figuratively – overacting just enough to remain genuine, entertaining, and true to his name. Lora Lee Gayner is perfectly “lovely” in her role as Phillia – a young, beautiful woman whose skill set included only one thing – being lovely. Nick Verina as “Hero”, and Phillia’s courtier, is just the right combination of clueless and confident.
Laurent Giroux is lathered with makeup, giving him the perfect look for Marcus Lycus, “buyer and seller of Courtesans” and his voice and mannerisms add perfectly to the part. Lycus’s women of ill-repute are all striking and well played – from the towering and imposing Gymnasium (Terry Lavell), to the beautiful Geminae twins (Shiloh Goodin and Phoebe Pearl), to the booty-shaking Tintinabula (Halley Cianfarini), to the buxom Panacea (Jen Bechter), to the “Cyndi Lauper-esque” Vibrata (Jessica Crouch).
Nathaniel Hackmann is excellent as Miles Gloriosus, the uber-masculine warrior with his booming baritone voice. Stewart Lane, as the older-than-time, and slow-walking Erronious, gets some good laughs in his part. And finally, the three Proteans (Glenn Giron, Grant Haralson, and J. Morgan White) provided comic relief from the comedy in their myriad different roles. The live orchestra is splendid, though I’m not actually sure where they are in the tiny theater, or how they know their cues. However they do it, they do it well.
“A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” is a well produced, well acted, and beautifully sung show. Sag Harbor is a wonderful little town (once you find parking), with plenty of great places to eat – and Bay Street is a wonderful place to watch a play. The production values are very high, and it is tiny enough that there are no bad seats. Snacks and drinks at intermission were very reasonable and I especially like the sign at the bar that reads “you may take your drinks into the theater” – a nice vote of confidence in this skeptical world. All in all, the play is a lot of fun, successfully setting aside tragedy for an evening, and giving us comedy – as promised.