Something for everyone, a comedy tonight!
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Book by Burt Shevelove & Larry Gelbart
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Originally Produced on Broadway by Harold S. Prince
Thursday evenings – June 21 & 28 at 8 pm
Friday evenings – June 15, 22 & 29 at 8 pm
Saturday evenings – June 16, 23 & 30 at 8 pm
Sunday matinees – June 10, 17 & 24 and July 1 at 4 pm
185 Nassau Street, Matthews Acting Studio
(next to Thomas Sweet)
Princeton University, Princeton
June 10 Opening $75
June 15 & 16 $50
June 17-23 $55
June 24-30 $60
July 1 $65
Tickets will go on sale in March.
Approximate running time: 2 hrs 15 min
Set & Lighting Design:
This Tony-winning Broadway farce is light, fast-paced, witty, irreverent and one of the funniest musicals ever written. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum takes comedy back to its roots, combining situations from the time-tested, 2000-year-old comedies of Roman playwright, Plautus, with the infectious energy of classic vaudeville.
Forum is a nonstop laugh-fest in which Pseudolus, a crafty slave, struggles to gain his freedom by winning the hand of a beautiful but slow-witted courtesan named Philia for his young master, Hero. The plot twists and turns with cases of mistaken identity, slamming doors and a showgirl or two. In other words, “something appealing, something appalling, something for everyone, a comedy tonight!”
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We are in ancient Rome, where three houses stand next to each other: the house of Senex in the center, flanked by that of Marcus Lycus, a buyer and seller of beautiful women on one side, and on the other that of the ancient Erronius, who is abroad searching for his long-lost children (stolen in infancy by pirates).
House of Erronius:
Erronius – an old man in search
of his missing children
House of Senex:
Senex –an old man
Domina – Senex’s wife
Hero – Senex and Domina’s son
Pseudolus – Hero’s slave
Hysterium – head slave
House of Lycus:
Marcus Lycus – a buyer and seller of beautiful women
Philia – virgin sold to Captain Miles Gloriosus
Pseudolus, Hero’s slave, is intent on buying, winning, or stealing his freedom. He is the main character of the musical.
While Senex and Domina are away on a trip, Hero confides in Pseudolus that he is in love with the lovely but clueless Philia, a virgin presently living in the House of Lycus. Pseudolus promises to help him win Philia’s love in exchange for his own freedom. Unfortunately, Philia has been sold to the renowned warrior Miles Gloriosus. Pseudolus, an accomplished liar, uses Philia’s cheery disposition to convince Lycus that she has picked up a plague from Crete, which makes its victims smile endlessly in its terminal stages. He offers to quarantine her in Senex’s house, giving Philia and Hero some time alone together. But Philia insists that, even though she is in love with Hero, she must honor her contract with the Captain, for “that is the way of a courtesan.”
To appease her, Pseudolus tells her to wait (“that’s what virgins do best, isn’t it?”) inside, and that he will have the captain knock three times when he arrives. He plans to slip Philia a sleeping potion that will render her unconscious. He will then tell Lycus that she has died of the Cretan plague, and will offer to remove the body. Hero will come along, and they will stow away on a ship headed for Greece. Satisfied with his plan, Pseudolus steals a book of potions from Hysterium, the head slave. He is missing one ingredient, “mare’s sweat,” and goes off in search of it.
Senex returns from his trip early, and knocks three times on his own door. Philia, thinking that Senex is the Captain, offers herself to him. Surprised but game, Senex instructs Philia to wait in the house. Hysterium arrives in the midst of this confusion and tells Senex that Philia is the new maid that he has hired. Pseudolus returns, having procured the mare’s sweat. Realizing that he needs to keep Senex out of the way, Pseudolus discreetly sprinkles some of the sweat on him, then suggests that the road trip has left Senex in dire need of a bath. Taking the bait, Senex instructs Hysterium to draw him a bath in the long-abandoned house of Erronius. While this is happening Erronius returns home, finally having given up the search for his long-lost children. Hysterium, desperate to keep him out of the house where his master is bathing, tells the old man that his house has become haunted – a story seemingly confirmed by the sound of Senex singing in his bath. Erronius immediately determines to have a soothsayer come and banish the spirit from his house, and Pseudolus obligingly poses as one, telling Erronius that, in order to banish the spirit, he must travel seven times around the seven hills of Rome (thus keeping the old man occupied and out of the way for quite a while).
When Miles Gloriosus arrives to claim his courtesan-bride, Pseudolus hides Philia on the roof of Senex’s house; told that she has “escaped,” Lycus is terrified to face the Captain’s wrath. Pseudolus offers to impersonate Lycus and talk his way out of the mess but, his ingenuity flagging, he ends up merely telling the Captain that Philia has disappeared, and that he, “Lycus”, will search for her. Displeased and suspicious, Miles insists that his soldiers accompany Pseudolus, but the wily slave loses them in Rome’s winding streets.
Complicating matters further, Domina returns from her trip early, suspicious that her husband Senex is “up to something low.” She disguises herself in virginal white robes and a veil (much like Philia’s) to try to catch Senex being unfaithful. Pseudolus convinces Hysterium to help him by dressing in drag and pretending to be Philia, “dead” from the plague. Unfortunately, it turns out that Miles Gloriosus has just returned from Crete, where there is of course no actual plague. With the ruse revealed, the main characters run for their lives, resulting in a madcap chase across the stage with both Miles and Senex pursuing all three Philias (Domina, Hysterium, and the actual Philia – all wearing identical white robes and veils). Meanwhile, the courtesans from the house of Marcus Lycus – who had been recruited as mourners at Philia’s ersatz funeral – have escaped, and Lycus sends his eunuchs out to bring them all back, adding to the general pandemonium.
Finally, the Captain’s troops are able to round everyone up. His plot thoroughly unraveled, Pseudolus appears to be in deep trouble – but Erronius, completing his third circuit of the Roman hills, shows up fortuitously to discover that Miles Gloriosus and Philia are wearing matching rings which mark them as his long-lost children. Philia’s betrothal to the Captain is nullified by the unexpected revelation that he’s her brother, and, as the daughter of a free-born citizen, she’s freed from Marcus Lycus. Philia weds Hero; Pseudolus gets his freedom and the lovely courtesan Gymnasia; Gloriosus receives twin courtesans to replace Philia; and Erronius is reunited with his children. A happy ending prevails for all – except for poor Senex, stuck with his shrewish wife Domina.
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