Backstage Review:  ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ at Reno Little Theater

A set made of cardboard, a cast with only sandals on their feet, this is a Shakespearian style comedy that will have you laughing so hard your face will hurt.

~Photos and review by Dana Nollsch~

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is based on a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.  The setting is ancient Rome, three houses with three stories that become intertwined with tales of love, tragedy, deceit, and the search for freedom. Pseudolus, a slave longing for his freedom sees an opportunity when his master falls for the girl next door and wishes to be with her. There are complications that Pseudolus is eager to help overcome, in exchange for his freedom, not the least of which are that the girl is a recently sold courtesan and her new owner is on his way to claim her. Add to this a cheating husband, a man searching for his long-ago kidnaped children and a man trying to mind his own business running a brothel and you get a true Roman tragedy, but as we all know Roman tragedies turn out good in the end? This story does have a happy ending and the path to that ending is paved with laughs, many many laughs.

First performed in 1962 “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is indeed a big production with music and song, humor, plot twists, and a large cast, a big production that comes together on the stage of Reno Little Theater brilliantly.

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So let’s talk about the performances. The cast is one of the best-prepared cast I have ever seen in a preview performance, and it looks like they are having a lot of fun during the two-hour performance.

Ian Sorensen

Pseudolus is played by Ian Sorensen, Ian is a very skilled improvisational actor and his spot on comedic timing brings a believability to his role, adding to that his ability to blend with the other actors’ performances leads me to believe this role was written for Ian.

Jeff Chamberlin

Miles Gloriosus is played by Jeff Chamberlin, Miles is a boastful soldier, tough as nails and looking for the woman he has recently purchased.  Jeff plays this role powerfully and with moments of hilarity.

Jared Lively and Elise Van Dyne

Jared Lively plays Hero, the young man who has fallen in love with Philla and is also the owner of Pseudolus. Jared plays his part with a naivete that fits the role to a T. Philla, Hero ’s love interest,  is played by Elise Van Dyne.  Elise plays her role with the innocence of a virgin and the hardness of a trained courtesan.

The entire cast comes together splendidly in a blending that adds to the enjoyment of the story. This is truly a world-class group of actors.

Here is a complete cast list:

Ian Sorensen as Pseudolus, the slave looking for freedom.

Erich Goldstein as Hysterium, the chief slave in the house of Senex. Erich is great as he plays the part of the one trying hold the chaos from spinning out of control.

Jared Lively as Hero, the lovesick boy looking for a way to be with his girl.

Elise Van Dyne as Philia, a virgin in the house of Marcus Lycus, and Hero’s love interest.

Kirk Gardner as Senex, a Roman senator, and father of Hero. Kirk plays the part of the head of the family who has no idea what is going on.

Amy Gianos as Domina, the wife of Senex. Amy is brilliant as the wife who knows that something is going and is determined to find out just what that is.

Scott House as Marcus Lycus, the owner of the brothel next door to Hero’s house. Scott is fantastic as he plays the role of a man watching his world fall into chaos.

Jeff Chamberlin as Miles Gloriosus,  A captain in the Roman army to whom Marcus Lycus has promised Philia.

Bob Ives as Erronius, the elderly neighbor who has been searching for his kidnaped children for years. Bob takes his turns around the stage bringing laughter with each entrance.

 

The courtesans of the house of Lycus:

Molly Stewart as Gymnasia:  the domineering woman that Pseudolus falls in love with.

Brittany Carpenter as Tintinabula, the woman with the bells.

Jennifer Flynn as Panacea:  a beautifully tempting courtesan.

Michaela Radecki as Vibrata: the wild courtesan of the house.

Lynn Carasali & Cathy Gabrielli the Geminae: twins who offer more together than alone.

 

Proteans: Choristers who play multiple roles (slaves, citizens, soldiers, and eunuchs).

Ryan Costello

Aiden Billharz

Chad William Michael

Noel Tsuchiya

 

Now that we have talked about the performance lets look at the rest of the production.

The set is an off-kilter representation of three houses, made of cardboard. The dreamlike quality of the set is punctuated by the colorful lighting thanks to Chad Sweet.

There are also the songs and score of Stephen Sondheim,  the music is honored by the direction of Cami Thompson.

Performances of this caliber, as we know, come together with great direction.  Melissa and Moira bring the direction that blends the performances together.

Director: Melissa Taylor

Assistant Director: Moira Bengochea

Musical Director: Cami Thompson

Accompaniment: Peter Supersano

Scenic & Lighting Design: Chad Sweet

Costume Design: Julie Robertson

Everyone involved in this production deserves recognition and everyone in the Reno theater community should go see  “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”.

Reno Little Theater’s performances of   “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”  is part of the month-long celebration of Artown.

Evening Showdates: 7/6, 7/7, 7/12, 7/13, 7/14, 7/19 (tt), 7/20, 7/21, 7/26 (tt), 7/27, 7/28 @ 7:30 pm

Matinee Showdates: 7/7 (FREE), 7/8, 7/14 (FREE), 7/15, 7/22, 7/29  @ 2:00 pm

For more information here is a link to Reno Little Theaters Website:  http://renolittletheater.org/

 

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