STAGE REVIEW KSU's 'Forum' joins vaudeville with Roman antiquity

The outstanding cast gavestellar performances with almost-perfect comedic timing.
CHAMPION -- Joseph Scarvell's superb directing skills were showcased at Friday evening's opening performance of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" at Kent State University's Trumbull Campus. Also obvious was Scarvell's knack for choosing the perfect cast for this raucous foray into ancient Rome.
The musical by Stephen Sondheim, Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart is replete with catchy tunes, slapstick foibles and double-entendres, and the players rose to the occasion with a big dose of vitality and near-perfect comedic timing. Jokes, pratfalls, misunderstandings and shenanigans shot constantly from the stage like a Roman candle.
At the center of this mayhem is Pseudolus (Tom Gent), a Roman slave who wants nothing more than his freedom and who will use his wily ways to gain that end at every turn.
Pseudolus employs every trick in the book as well as writing a few of his own to gain his freedom, garnering a promise from his owner, Hero (Benjamin Haake), to be set free if he can only manage to get Philia (Shaina Vencel) for Hero's bride.
But alas, as the Law of Murpheus (also known as Murphy's Law) would have it, the lovely Philia is housed at the residence of Marcus Lycus (Russ Nalepa), well-known procurer and seller of beautiful women, as evidenced by Tintinabula (Elaine Hullihen), the Geminae twins (Juliann Gorse and Jessica Mitolo), Vibrata (Adrienne Morelli) and Gymnasia (Erin Hagmaier).
Of course, Hero's parents, Senex (Larry Latsko) and Domina (Susan MonteCalvo), would never agree to such a union and, besides, the lovely Philia has already been sold to Miles Gloriosus (David Ross II), a decorated and conceited soldier who is even now en route to claim his bride.
Added to this mix is another servant, Hysterium (Andrew Ford); a neighbor searching for his kidnapped children, Erroneus (Gary Taneri); and the Proteans (Peter Nalepa, Frank McCauley, Sean Philibin and Nathan Beagle) who fill several roles each.
In truth, each actor in this show gave a virtuoso performance, keeping the energy level high and comedy sparkling. Their antics as confusion reigned supreme were hilarious and delightful, as was their music. Of special note was the hysterically funny funeral scene.
Behind the scenes
The set design by Michelle Harvey was flawless, and musical direction by Jason M. Fair was excellent as were Fair's fellow musicians, Mickey Costello, John Hagen and Nelson McCreary. Also doing praiseworthy work behind the scenes were Leslie Brown, Tracy Schuler, Barbara Ozimek and Mary Ellen Cleary.

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