Badger High School goes to ancient Rome

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" runs Nov. 16-18

By Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

(Published Nov. 9, 2006, 5:00 p.m.)

"There is nothing to be taken serious about this play; its only goal is laughter," said Laura Shotliff, director.

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," from the book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart Music and with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is a farcical production that deals with impossibilities and improbabilities that happen despite how impossible and improbable they are, she said.

It's based on the plays of Roman playwright Plautus and was brought to Broadway in 1962 and won a Tony Award in 1963 for best musical.

"The humor is physical and bawdy, but witty. We laugh at the characters because their frustrations, difficulties and embarrassments are so unrealistic."

The setting is a residential street in ancient Rome, home of three houses.

In the House of Erronius, the master is away searching for his two lost children who were stolen as babies by pirates.

In the House of Lycus, Marcus Lycus is a procurer of young women to become brides of various charms for the wealthy.

In between the two houses is the House of Senex, home to a wealthy, conservative and upstanding family with an over-protective mother and wife, a laid-back father and a son who knows not nearly enough of the world.

"Throw in a little conflict-Hero has fallen in love with the new arrival at the House of Lycus, Philia, the laziest slave in Rome, Psuedolas, who wants to be free, and a lot of bad timing-and you've got one of the most popular musical farces, Shotliff said.

"Senex, in my opinion, is just a dirty old man," said Will Hancock, who portrays him in the show. "He's got a good sense of humor and certainly doesn't mind fooling around behind his wife's back.

His son, Hero, and he both want the same girl, Hancock says. "They do a whole duet on who's the better one for her, and yet each one is feeling insecure that the other is more attractive to women. It's pretty comical.

"Senex's shining moment is in his song 'Everybody Ought to Have a Maid.' He dances around with three other characters and it's just awesome."

"'A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum' was chosen for several reasons," Shotliff said. "We wanted the challenge of a Stephen Sondheim musical and we also wanted to do a smaller cast show after doing several years of 40-plus cast members."

The humor is more adult than in past Badger performances, she said. Buying slaves and wives aren't part of our lives today, but the tongue-in-cheek humor is universal, and a bit risqué. For this reason, this is a PG-13 performance.

"The language and content is equitable to sitcoms such as Friends, That 70s Show and others of that ilk."

This play's conventions of breaking the fourth wall - talking directly to the audience, poking fun of their fellow cast members, actors who play multiple roles and sometimes don't quite make it into the next costume, and asking the audience to join in on the fun - makes it an ongoing favorite to performers and audiences alike.

The cast is having a ball with its silliness, Shotliff said. "(Because) their world does not work this way, it's extremely easy to find humor in the outrageous physical situations the characters find themselves in."

The humor has Hancock sold on the play, he said.

"I like the witty humor and (it's) animated humor too," he said. "It's got really good twists and the characters are just awesome.

"We have a lot of talent in here."

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," runs Nov. 16-18, at 7:30 p.m. at Badger High School, 220 South St., Lake Geneva. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and students and free with a current student identification. For reservations or more information, call Shotliff at 348-2000 ext. 2722

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