A Comedy Tonight at the Novato Theater Company

Benjamin Alan Knoll as Pseudolus, Simon Eves as Hysterium are surrounded by two courtesans in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Get ready to laugh in the Novato Theater Company's presentation of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.  A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was written by Bert Shevelove and Larry Gelbart.

This delightful musical tells the bawdy story of a slave named Pseudolus (Benjamin Alan Knoll) and his attempts to win his freedom by helping his young master (Zachary Isen) win the girl next door (Julianne Thompson). The plot displays many classic elements of farce including puns, the slamming of doors, cases of mistaken identity and satirical comments on social class.  The title derives from the line that Vaudeville comedians often used to begin a story, "A funny thing happened on the way to the theater."

The time is 200 years before the Christian era, a day in spring. The place is a street in Rome in front of the houses of Erronius (Michael Collins), Senex (Alan Weber) and Lycus (John Conway) in an adorable set designed by Gary Gonser.  

The entire cast is outstanding. Benjamin Alan Knoll opens the production as the thespian Prologus who bids us welcome to his temple--wherein they worship the gods of tragedy and comedy.  Tragedy will have to wait for it is Comedy Tonight.  At which time, Knoll becomes Pseudolus, slave to Hero, a pivotal character who has dreams of freedom.  Zachary Isen has just the right tone of innocent charm as Hero, the teenage son of Senex who has already found his true love, who is charmingly portrayed by Julianne Thompson as Philia, a Cretin virgin sold for 500 minae to Miles Gloriosus.  Miles has quite an entrance at the end of Act One.  Will Lamers gives a strong performance as this great warrior, slaughterer of thousands and oppressor of the meek.  NTC is blessed with a quartet of wonderful character actors with Alan Weber as Senex, an old man reluctantly dragged along to visit his mother in-law, Sandy Rubay as Domina, his aptly named wife, Michael Collins as Erronius, the befuddled neighbor of Senex who has been abroad in search of his long lost children and John Conway as Marcus Lycus a trader in the flesh of women.  Simon Eves has the clever comic role of Hysterium, the aptly named slave of Senex and Domina.  Lycus' courtesans, beautifully choreographed by Blanca Florido, include Melissa W. Bailey as Panacea, Shari Clover as one of the twins Geminae and Sarah Nelson as the other twin, Amy Dietz as Tintinabula, Sarah Garland as Vibrata and Linda Ward as Gymnasia.  

This production is beautifully directed by Kim Bromley and produced by Karen Thouvenin. The musical director is Monica Norcia with wonderful costumes designed by John Clancy and Janice Deneau.  The Novato Theater Company excels in their musical productions and this is a real winner--one of their best!

The play runs April 6-April 29 at Novato Theater Company Playhouse, 484 Ignacio Blvd., Novato. Shows are at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday with Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. For reservations, call 415-883-4498 or go online at www.novatotheatercompany.org.

Coming up next will be Noises Off by Michael Frayn, May 25-June 17, 2012.

Flora Lynn Isaacson