Summer’s sea breezes swirl across the eager crowd as they await the opening night performance of the classic musical comedy “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum.” The Rockaway Theatre Company (RTC) offers their version at Fort Tilden in the beautiful Gateway National Recreation Area.
Appealing, colorful sets and costumes fill the stage with the sights and sounds of ancient Rome. An aristocrat’s mansion, a house of ill repute and a traveler’s haunted house greet the eye at opening curtain. The Roman slave Pseudolus, played by Chazmond J. Peacock, is an unabashed singer, dancer, tale teller and misguided mastermind in almost every scene. In one segment he plunges into the audience, ad-libbing a flirtation with a delighted patron. He clearly enjoys his ubiquitous role and it works. Well done!
Director John Gilleece and Producer Susan Jasper offer free rein to the performers, large part or small. This creates comical slapstick for the half dozen “Proteans” and some vaudeville bumps and grinds for the six stunning courtesans. The major characters also indulge their comical intuition.
Most roles have more than one player, depending on the evening. Towering, lecherous Senex (Cliff Hesse/Tom Kane) is henpecked by his beautiful, but domineering wife Domina (Nancy Sturgis/Deborah Fantana). Their son Hero (Matthew Smilardi) is smitten by lovely Philia (Diana Sturgis/Najat Arkadan), who is as clueless as she is charming. Anxiety ridden slave Hysterium (David Risley) would do anything for his freedom. Poor Erronius (John Gilleece/Robert Fahn) can’t quite figure things out after twenty years at sea. Miles Gloriosus (Daniel Marsden) is a bit too star struck – with himself! But the best job belongs to Lycus (Bob Pritchard/Walter Costello), the purveyor of fine courtesans for every Roman inclination.
The evening’s tempo never falters, thanks to the twelve – yes, twelve-piece orchestra led by Musical Director Jeffrey Arzberger. Kudos as well to Gabrielle Mangano (Choreography); James Cantirino, Tony Homsey and Andrew Woodbridge (Set Design); Mathethew Smilardi and Peggy Vivino (Costumes) and Kristin Kearns (Stage Manager). Apologies to others onstage and behind the scenes too numerous to name individually.
Call the hotline at 718-374-6400 or surf to www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org for tickets and directions. There are still some sizzling hot shows this summer at Fort Tilden. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.