The IU Department of Theatre and Drama’s production of "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum" in the Ruth N. Halls theatre offered the funniest couple of hours that I’ve had in the theatre this season. The authors Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbert, and the musician Stephen Sondheim were inspired by the works of the Roman Plautus. Plautus was the most successful comic writer of the ancient world and this show seems to bear out the ancient judgment.
Combining the direction of Department Head Jonathan Michaelsen with the choreography of George Pinney was clearly a winning combination. Guest actor Darin DePaul in the key role of the clever, freedom seeking slave and narrator Pseudolus drew on a seemingly endless variety of expressions and gestures. He brought the show a level of high polish and clearly his presence raised the level of the performances around him.
Trenton Hulen and Mandy Striph were charming as the goofily innocent young lovers. Quinto Ott was outstanding as Marcus Lycus the buyer and seller of courtesans and the show offered quite a display of his wares. Alyson Bloom set bells ringing as his Tintinabula. Kristyn Kate Kegner amazed all with the flexible poise of Gymnasia. Lovlee Carroll and Ariel Simpson were as cute a pair as you could imagine as the Geminae.
Thomas Florio did a lovely turn as a sort of Robert Goulet style warrior, Miles Glorioso. Assisting the soldier as bluff hearty Romans and the buyer and seller as silly eunuchs were the quick changing Proteans, William Angulo, Jake Haynie, and Marc Winski. Frequently they would exit as one group on stage right only to reappear as the other on stage in what seemed like too few seconds for human beings.
Tim Borden’s scenic design took off from the bare temporary wooden stages that the Romans used to add fanciful details, bold colors and perspectives and even second stories on the house fronts.
Music director James Ivey had full brass and wind sections for his eleven piece ensemble and they brought to the show the authentic sounds of pre electronic Broadway
Performances of "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum" continue Tuesday through Saturday at seven-thirty. There’s a Saturday matinee at two thirty.
You can find an interview with Darin DePaul on our Arts Interviews podcast page .