Funny “Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at Incline

Review by Swapna Mirashi

Photos by Tammy Cassesa

Incline Theater’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” is a well-oiled, brilliant comic machinery on stage with all its components working together beautifully to create a laugh-riot for over two hours. Reopening after two years, Incline begins its Summer Classics Season with the musical that has had two revivals on Broadway and won 9 Tony Awards, Executive Artistic Director Tim Perrino reminds us in his Welcome address. 

Set in ancient Rome, “Forum” – Book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim –  is essentially a comic (hilarious) look at its characters’ desires against life’s surprises and the mundane.

Pseudolus (an engaging Jeremiah Plessinger), a crafty slave, wants to be free. He expresses that in his smooth voice through the delightful number ‘Free’ – ‘oh, what a word!’ ‘Can you see me?’  His young master, Hero (Elliot Handkins) loves and wants the girl next door. Except that this is no girl-next-door but a young, slow-witted courtesan Philia (Hayley Isabella Warfel), who, although loves Hero, wants to honor the contract of her sale to the captain Miles Gloriosus (Christopher Wells). Hero’s father Senex (Harold Murphy) wants to keep away from Hero’s mother Domina (Annie Schneider). Their neighbor Erronius (Matt Lovell) wants to find his twin children lost in their infancy. And the other neighbor Marcus Lycus (John Dorney) wants money – so he sells women. And Hysterium, Senex and Domina’s slave, just wants to rest. Then, there is a band of courtesans, each with her unique personality and special talent. And of course, the Proteans – the trio of players (Zac Holman, Kelsey Schwarber, Lyndsey Adams) with an extra (Ian Timothy Forsgren) – who play multiple parts as needed – adding to the comic action (their tap-dancing foot soldiers are HILARIOUS). All these characters, their lives and their desires cross paths with cases of mistaken identity, slamming doors, random entries and exits, orders and cunning plans and madness unfolds, as orchestrated. Kudos to Stage Manager Holly Mills!

Incline’s ‘Forum’ – directed by Bob Brunner with music direction by Michael Kennedy – dazzles as an ensemble, with each of its members playing their part humbly and wholly to their abilities. No single member outshines the group – but each one glows with the sincerity and authenticity they bring to their part on the stage or from the back. Kate Stark’s choreography, Joe Kovacs’ elaborate costumes, Brett Bowling’s scenic design and the props are imaginative and they complement the characters and action on stage. Together as a team, Cincinnati Landmark Productions brings to life “Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at the Incline Theater. Performances run Wednesday & Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday & Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm from April 20 to May 15, 2022. For tickets call 513-241-6550 or click HERE.

Swapna Mirashi is a published writer of over 20 years. She has been actively involved in theater (expat Marathi language and children’s) as an actor and director since 2014.