Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 6, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown, MA
through July 11, 2010
by Karolina Sadowicz

Many funny things happen on the way to the forum. As the cast of the zany musical farce fills the Williamstown Theatre Festival main stage for the opening number, they promise "Tragedy tomorrow" but "comedy tonight." They keep the promise with superb timing and slapstick antics, and keep the audience in stitches.

Led by Tony nominee Christopher Fitzgerald ("Young Frankentstein," "Finian's Rainbow," "Wicked"), the all-male ensemble sings and dances their ways through pitch-perfect comedic setups. There are divided lovers, mistaken identities, and above all: men in drag.

Fitzgerald plays Pseudolus, a cunning slave to handsome and innocent Hero (adorably earnest Bryce Pinkham), son of Sene(Jeremy Shamos alternately lecherous and full of animal lust in his second role), who falls in love with a young virgin, Philia (David Turner) who has been sold to a captain by the brothel owner next door, Lycus (David Costabile of "Damages" and "Breaking Bad"). Pseudolus offers to bring Philia to Hero while his parents are away, in exchange for his freedom. Naturally, things don't go exactly as planned, and hilarity ensues.

Fitzgerald is an outstanding comedic ring leader, but each actor in the ensemble gets full credit for exploiting every gag, every syllable of witty dialogue and song. The protean cast of 14 takes on dozens of characters, from from nagging wives, to pirates, to Roman Soldiers, to undulating ladies of the evening.

The colorful and opulent set is relatively simple, and built to make the most of frequent chases and quick disappearances. The orchestra booms from the pit, and plays a willing part in multiple sight gags, and it's hard to say whether the audience or the actors are having more fun. The show moves quickly between songs and jokes, maintaining a swift tempo from punchline to punchline. The music, slapstick, and choreography recall everything from Looney Tunes, to the Three Stooges, to vaudeville.

The talented cast never rests on its laurels, making the most of already great musica and comedic material. A flawless production, "Forum" delivers in every way, and brings to new heights a subject that never gets less funny: men in dresses.