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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Bar Harbor
A while back, kestrell and I went to see a local production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. This writeup is not timely enough to be a useful review, but there's some stuff worth remembering.

The movie version of this has long been a favorite of mine, but I had never seen it performed live. I listened to the theatrical soundtrack incessantly as a youth, so I knew (most of) the different songs, but I was pretty sure the stage version didn't end with a wacky chariot race, and was curious how the stage version wrapped up.

It was put on in a small theater, with a simple but effective set. The play mostly takes place on a street in front of three houses, and the set design made it very clear which house was which: The run-down abandoned door surmounted by a gaggle of geese, the big impressive portico with a huge dollar sign over it, and the red-lit beaded curtain with a playboy bunny atop it and Visa, Mastercard, and AmEx logos prominently displayed.

The theater director gave his little mini-speech before the show. It closed with an element which, though I weep at its necessity, seemed like a good idea in this unenlightened age: "Laugh. Laugh a lot, laugh out loud."

This production had an interesting aspect that, I suspect, was not present in the original. Lacking the budget for "hundreds of actors out of sorts", they had three mult-purpose actors whom they introduced as "Proteans", who took the roles of miscellaneous citizens, slaves, soldiers, merchants, and eunuchs, often with minimal costuming and funny voices. I expect that they had as much fun (and worked as hard as) the leads. Kes and I both think that "Protean", in this sense, is a useful word/concept and should be spread widely.

Courtesans are an important feature of this show, and they had some good ones. Tintinabula was wearing a belly-dancing outfit with poofy pants that seemed demure. Until she moved, revealing that they were slit, as I spontaneously narrated to Kes, "all the way to Heaven". The twins were an interesting change-up: in this production they were fraternal, adding all sorts of intriguing erotic possibilities, and a quite new set of interpretation to the innuendo.

There was one notable accident, leading to some fun ad-libbing. They had a bit of business during the "I'm Lovely" number with bringing on an electric fan and blowing rose petals at the singer. This shtick was reused during the reprise in Act Two with Pseudolus and Hysterium (in drag). Hysterium accidentally inhaled a rose petal near the end of the number, and was choking a bit. Luckily, he didn't have any lines for a while after that, as he was meant to be pretending to be a dead courtesan. When Miles Gloriosus asked how his intended bride had perished, Pseudolus jumped in with "Choked on a rose petal and just keeled right over." It's a good thing MG was too distracted by his grief to notice the 'corpse' quivering with repressed giggles and renewed choking!

The end of the stage show turns out to be a fairly traditional french farce, with people running in and out of doors, until the final denouement. "And a happy ending, of course!"

"What is the moral? / Must be a moral. / Here is the moral, wrong or right: / Morals tomorrow, comedy tonight!" Man, I love this show :)

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I first saw it (in about 1972) in a dinner theater. There were maybe half a dozen actors and there was a two person orchestra - a pianist and my friend, who played flute, percussion, and did sound effects. It didn't feel understaffed.

I played Senex, the dirty old man, in high school ("You're back!" "She almost broke it!"). I think the Proteans have always been a part of the stage version, especially since they feel so typical of theater of the time.

I am embarrassed to report that nearly all the pictures I took as we prepared for opening night are of denizens of the house of Phyllis Lycus (minor gender change due to lack of males to play parts)... and the people playing those roles realized I was doing it, and told me so... Ah, well. I was certainly clueless at the time.

If they didn't want to be looked at, why on earth would they play those parts?

1. This was high school, and someone had to play the roles. I would say at least half of them had been coerced into doing it, and were putting only half their hearts into the effort.
2. This was high school in central Wisconsin, where very few people had figured out how to react to someone looking at them.
3. They may not have liked my behavior, of "take a picture but completely ignore the person you just took a picture of because you have no idea how to react to someone who knows you're looking at them, so you act like you haven't really been looking at them." My, did I have issues back then...
4. Being looked at on stage is different from being looked at by cast members backstage, and different from getting photos taken.
5. They may have wanted to be looked at, but not by me.

I could go on. There were many factors to the interaction.

And, taking a different tack:

Come now. They had to support the whole vibe of "I'm not a courtesan, I only play one in this play." If they showed they enjoyed the attention, that would cross the line, right?

As I said before, my we had issues back then and back there, didn't we?

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