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A Funny Thing Happened…

Yesterday, we went to A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Shakespeare Theatre.  (We were supposed to go a week earlier, but moved our tickets due to the Great Sam-Cat Veterinary Crisis.)  I was a bit apprehensive about the show, because I’m not generally a fan of farce.  Nevertheless, I *am* a fan of Sondheim, and I’d heard good things about this production, so…

There was a lot that was good about the show, starting with the gorgeous purple-lit gold curtain across the proscenium before the show began.  The choreography was excellent, with both the Courtesans and the Proteans executing the most professional dance moves I’ve seen at Shakespeare Theater.  Psuedolus threw himself into his role, bringing out many laughs with his comic delivery, his asides to the audience, and his general willingness to do anything for the show.  Some of his ad libs were truly funny — including one missed bit of physical humor, where he quipped, “We have one more show to get that one right” — nearly cracking himself up.  (Later in the show, Hysterium nearly broke the entire cast with his ad lib about being a pretty princess.  Ah, the joys of seeing a show at the end of a run :-) )  The music and lyrics lived up to my expectation, especially the opening number (“Comedy Tonight”), where the staging did wonderful little riffs on the Shakespearean tragedies more often performed in the space.

Alas, it wasn’t a perfect riotous afternoon.  The 51-year-old show feels rather aged — all the women are whores (except for the one harridan who is so hideous she nearly makes a character vomit upon seeing her); Our Heroine is a virgin-whore is so stupid she can’t count to three.  The fart jokes and the crotch groping comic bits didn’t work for me (but they almost never do), and some of the physical humor just went on too long (especially the Feydeau scene at the end of the second act.)

I left the theater surprised that the 20th century musical, based on a 2d century BC play fragment echoed so well with the usual Shakespeare fare.  A lot of the tropes from Roman comedy by way of American musical theater are the ones Shakespeare visited early and often — mistaken identities, magic potions that might or might not bring death, wise fools, etc.

All in all, a good afternoon — made even better by the yummy Grilled Shrimp Greek Salad I had for dinner.  And now it’s time for a week of writing, admin work, etc.

So?  How about you?  Did you have a good weekend?  Do you like farce and/or physical humor?  What about musicals?

Mirrored from Mindy Klasky, Author.



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 6th, 2014 03:14 pm (UTC)
The show is even older than it looks-- it's based on period sources. I think it would be hard for a modern writer (even in the sixties) to write a story about Roman slaves from scratch without having some anti-slavery elements.
Jan. 7th, 2014 12:30 am (UTC)
Whoopi Goldberg played the slave in one of the Broadway revivals. I think that would have created a *completely* different show, one that it would be much more difficult to take as hilarious (the way they try to sell the sex trade jokes.)
Jan. 7th, 2014 12:47 am (UTC)
On the other hand, that Whoopi is damned funny, so who knows?
Jan. 6th, 2014 09:01 pm (UTC)
I like it when it is done well, which is almost impossible. The funniest thing I ever saw, back in High School, was a film of a version of Taming of the Shrew (I think that was it...it was a long time ago) done in the Comedia del Arte style. Complete slapstick, but oh, my lord, so funny.
Jan. 7th, 2014 12:33 am (UTC)
The funniest play I've ever seen was a farce -- NOISES OFF. I have never laughed so hard for so long. But physical humor rarely works for me. (Shakespeare Theatre did a show in Commedia style last year, and those were two of the longest hours of my life :-) )
Jan. 7th, 2014 12:46 am (UTC)
This may have been a rare good one--it was both the first and last in that style I ever saw, so I have nothing to compare it to.

On the other hand, I love Monty Python. Make of that what you will :-)
Jan. 8th, 2014 05:26 pm (UTC)
That show was pretty bad—I left at the intermission, and my mother didn't wait that long. But I love Faction of Fools, the local commedia del'arte troupe. They did a version of Hamlet where all the characters were replaced by the commedia archetypes Shakespeare drew on, and it was one of the smartest, most insightful pieces of comedy/literary criticism I've seen.
Jan. 10th, 2014 04:42 pm (UTC)
And until I heard from you, I didn't know we *had* a local commedia troupe :-)
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 10th, 2014 04:43 pm (UTC)
I've heard from several people who adore the film. I wish they made more musicals into films these days...
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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