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September 29, 2013

Comedy tonight

Theater guild opens season with 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum'

Tonawanda News — The Niagara Regional Theatre Guild hit the ground running — and stumbling, and cowering, and skulking — into its 2013-14 season, opening its five-show schedule with the comedic farce, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."

The show, which opened Friday, continues through Oct. 13 at the guild's Ellicott Creek Playhouse at the St. Edmund Campus, Town of Tonawanda. Fran Newton, the artistic director of the group and technical director for this show, said it's the third time the group has presented this particular production, with the first going back to the 1970s.

"We decided to do something very upbeat for the start, and you can't get much funnier than this one," he said. "It was written back in the era when you had schtick comedy going like crazy. This is all schtick. One thing after the other, it's all farcical and very fast-paced á la the Marx Brothers or Abbott and Costello."

The show, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, centers around Roman slave Pseudolus and his quest for freedom, involving the girl he's trying to win for his master, that young master's parents, the flock of courtesans at the house next door, the purveyor of said courtesans, the army captain to whom the purveyor has promised the first girl and ... well, it just continues from there.

"There are subplots all over the place," Newton said. "It's just an evening of laughs and entertainment. The entire show is all subplots."

When casting a show of this sort, with the story all over the place, the humor of the farcial sort and the action nearly constant, a sense of both physical comedy and of comedic timing is essential, he said, citing Dan Zerpa of Buffalo, who plays Pseudolus, as a prime example.

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