“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” opened Nov. 4 at the Backdoor Playhouse to an expectant audience.”Musicals tend to do very well here,” director Mark Creter explained after the final dress rehearsal on Nov. 3. “We expect a large crowd. It’s a fun, fast-paced show.”
Set in ancient Rome, “A Funny Thing Happened” has the plot twists and character profiles of a modern day sex-fueled comedy flick. The entire play takes place on the street in front of the houses of Erronious, Senex and Lycus. Once the characters are introduced, plot lines and back stories begin to intertwine among the households.
In the house of Senex, a young man named Hero (Richard ‘Rico’ McMahon), flirts from afar with the girl next door, Philia (Elissa Longfellow). McMahon and Longfellow have incredible stage chemistry, and it is emphasized by their hungry glances to each other across the stage and with well-placed virgin jokes directed toward the pair by cast members.
Naturally, in true comedic form, the main couple’s romance is hindered by a frustrating circumstance. In Philia’s case, it is that she lives in the house of Lycus, the whorehouse that Hero is forbidden to approach.
Another notable pair is the friendship of Pseudolus (Charles Anthony Long) and Hysterium (Stephen Harris). Both slaves in the house of Senex, Pseudolus’ scheming but endearing qualities are pleasantly buffered by Hysterium’s desire to be the model citizen. Long and Harris have the most stage time, and their high-energy relationship screams the definition of “buddy comedy.”
Meanwhile, the house of Erronious serves as a highly effective third-tier plot line to maintain the play’s comedic thread. Erronious, which is Latin for “wandering”, is indeed a wandering old man in search of his missing children. Shane Cummingham, who plays Erronious, does a spectacular job of portraying someone who is many decades his senior.
Playgoers will be curious to see how Erronious’ storyline eventually works its way into the lives of the other two households, but the keenest eyes should be able to spot it by the end of Act One.
If the allure of quality acting, a solid plot and a finely-tuned orchestra don’t make you want to see this play, the set design will.
As the Backdoor Playhouse is a modest venue, and its stage can only accommodate humble horizontal space, the set design was taken vertically with three-story set pieces and signature Roman columns.
This play is highly recommended if you enjoy blatant innuendo and saucy humor. Parents should not be wary of bringing small children to the play, as the sexual jokes are sparse, used when necessary, and are only able to be understood with a teenage mentality.
If Homecoming festivities aren’t your thing, “A Funny thing Happened” shows tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. Tech students are free with ID. The Backdoor Playhouse charges $12 for general admission, $10 for senior citizens and $5 for non-Tech students.