‘Forum’ draws laughs to MC stage

The Maryville College Theater Department recently presented a farcical comedy drawing on everything from Greek and Roman theater to Shakespeare, vaudeville, and even the sitcom Frasier.

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” was adapted from the book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gilbert. It features music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. This musical comedy, set in ancient Rome, won the Tony award when it debuted in 1962.

The four performances were held on March 5 through 8 in the Maryville College Alumni Gym, and cast and crew were drawn from the community as well as the college. The Civic Arts Centers executive director Robert Hutchens picked and directed the play, which he has worked with in the past.

“A Funny Thing” is a raucous mess of loves won, lost and utterly confused, of freedom desired and earned, and naturally of mistaken identity, the bread-and-butter of farces. As directed by Hutchens, it is rife with physical comedy, including dropped trousers, slippery banana peels and even a unicycle.

The cast reveled in the free-form silliness, turning in performances that left audiences in stitches. Roughly 650 people in total attended the four performances. Hutchens said each night the audiences were very responsive. Using the small performance space became an asset, he said. “We let the performance spill out into the audience.”

Up next for the MC Theater Department is “The Things They Carried,” adapted for the stage by MC student Andi Morrow from the novel by Tim O’Brien.

The play describes the experiences of soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War. The soldiers learn to rely on each other in the face of the huge emotional, relational and physical challenges of life in the field. Performances will be held on April 30, May 1 and 2 at 8 p.m. and May 3 at 2 p.m. in the Alumni Gym at Maryville College.

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