A funny thing indeed at Lakewood Playhouse

Lakewood Playhouse is closing out its current season with the hilarious comedy “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.” John Munn, managing artistic director, gives the audience some useful pointers in his pre-show address. He notes this is a vaudeville-style production and the audience is encouraged to cheer the good guys, boo at jokes that fall flat and whoop it up when young men or women they find attractive appear.

The theater-in-the-round format used in all Lakewood Playhouse productions is especially useful here, allowing the thespians to interact with the crowd in a manner one generally would not experience.

The setting is Rome, approximately 200 B.C. Three houses are on a street, belonging to Senex (Steve Tarry), Erronious (Martin J. MacKenzie) and Marcus Lycus (Jeffery Weaver). The latter is a house of ill repute, with women from around the world.

Early in act I, Senex and his controlling wife Domina (Dawn Padula) are heading off to visit her mother in the countryside. A good makeup job here, as the overabundance of eye shadow is fitting for this over-the-top personality. Padula portrays her in with the needed level of irritability.

They leave behind their 20-year-old son Hero (Colin Briskey) with his slave Pseudolus (Christopher Cantrell) and the head slave Hysterium (Alex Smith).

A convoluted story of boy meets girl unfolds. Hero gazes at Philia (Gretchen Boyt) when she stands by a window in the house of Lycus. He falls madly in love with her. Pseudolus desperately wants his freedom. They make a deal that if the slave can win the hand of Philia for Hero, he will be set free. The two sing “Free,” just one of many charming and amusing songs by Stephen Sondheim. Pseudolus makes the observation that as a slave, his room and board are provided but once he is free, nothing will be free, a notion that makes him hesitate momentarily about his goal of freedom.

Lycus has already sold Philia to Miles Gloriosus (James Wrede), a captain in the Roman army. He says he will be by shortly to retrieve her, which sets in motion a madcap series of lies and deception, as Pseudolus schemes to pair up Philia with Hero.

There was good acting by a number of cast members, but the two standouts are Cantrell and Wrede. Cantrell really threw himself into his role, while Wrede was especially convincing in portraying the big ego of his character.

Set designer Blake York made good use of the space with his design. There is seating between the three houses. At several points members of the cast interacted with patrons in these seats, which contributed to the comedic nature of the play and added a spontaneous element to the action. In the middle of the space is a fountain with flowing water. At a few key times the water gushed up in a way that added to the ribald nature of the play.

Kimberly Davis, who handled costume design, did a very good job. The women from the house of Lycus were seductive in their unique way and their outfits really exemplified this. The costume changes Senex made in the course of before and after bathing were quite impressive as well.

This production had audience members busting up laughing, especially in the second act. Lakewood Playhouse hits a comedic home run with this production. Performances run through July 8. Tickets are $23-28. For more information visit Lakewood Playhouse is closing out its current season with the hilarious comedy “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.” John Munn, managing artistic director, gives the audience some useful pointers in his pre-show address. He notes this is a vaudeville-style production and the audience is encouraged to cheer the good guys, boo at jokes that fall flat and whoop it up when young men or women they find attractive appear.

The theater-in-the-round format used in all Lakewood Playhouse productions is especially useful here, allowing the thespians to interact with the crowd in a manner one generally would not experience.

The setting is Rome, approximately 200 B.C. Three houses are on a street, belonging to Senex (Steve Tarry), Erronious (Martin J. MacKenzie) and Marcus Lycus (Jeffery Weaver). The latter is a house of ill repute, with women from around the world.

Early in act I, Senex and his controlling wife Domina (Dawn Padula) are heading off to visit her mother in the countryside. A good makeup job here, as the overabundance of eye shadow is fitting for this over-the-top personality. Padula portrays her in with the needed level of irritability.

They leave behind their 20-year-old son Hero (Colin Briskey) with his slave Pseudolus (Christopher Cantrell) and the head slave Hysterium (Alex Smith).

A convoluted story of boy meets girl unfolds. Hero gazes at Philia (Gretchen Boyt) when she stands by a window in the house of Lycus. He falls madly in love with her. Pseudolus desperately wants his freedom. They make a deal that if the slave can win the hand of Philia for Hero, he will be set free. The two sing “Free,” just one of many charming and amusing songs by Stephen Sondheim. Pseudolus makes the observation that as a slave, his room and board are provided but once he is free, nothing will be free, a notion that makes him hesitate momentarily about his goal of freedom.

Lycus has already sold Philia to Miles Gloriosus (James Wrede), a captain in the Roman army. He says he will be by shortly to retrieve her, which sets in motion a madcap series of lies and deception, as Pseudolus schemes to pair up Philia with Hero.

There was good acting by a number of cast members, but the two standouts are Cantrell and Wrede. Cantrell really threw himself into his role, while Wrede was especially convincing in portraying the big ego of his character.

Set designer Blake York made good use of the space with his design. There is seating between the three houses. At several points members of the cast interacted with patrons in these seats, which contributed to the comedic nature of the play and added a spontaneous element to the action. In the middle of the space is a fountain with flowing water. At a few key times the water gushed up in a way that added to the ribald nature of the play.

Kimberly Davis, who handled costume design, did a very good job. The women from the house of Lycus were seductive in their unique way and their outfits really exemplified this. The costume changes Senex made in the course of before and after bathing were quite impressive as well.

This production had audience members busting up laughing, especially in the second act. Lakewood Playhouse hits a comedic home run with this production. Performances run through July 8. Tickets are $23-28. For more information visit www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.

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