A revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is always welcome, with its lively music, antic humor, acrobatic sight gags, and Feydeau-like farce. Minus the slamming doors, it's a carnival with a plot at Bay Street Theater.
This colorful production in Sag Harbor, the third of Bay Street's summer offerings, is especially engaging family fun: featuring Peter Scolari as the ingenious slave Pseudolus. Switching happy/sad on the proverbial dime, he has what it takes to be a free man, shrewdly bargaining with his young master Hero (Nick Verina) to win his autonomy if he can help this lad woo the girl next door, a virgin courtesan-in-waiting named Philia (Lora Lee Gayer); a vacuous beauty, she has been sold off to a soldier, a hunky Miles Gloriosus (Nathaniel Hackmann). These three are delicious stock characters: under Marcia Milgrom Dodges' deft direction, Hero is the equivalent of a Jewish son preparing to become a doctor, Philia puts a new spin on the concept of dumb blond, and Miles Gloriosus is conceit writ large.
Manipulating these pawns are the parents, Senex (Conrad John Schuck) and Domina (Jackie Hoffman), both masters of facial elasticity, Hysterium (Tom Deckman), another slave and a master of physical elasticity, and courtesan pimp Marcus Lycus (Laurent Giroux) whose coif of black curlicues is reason enough to see this play. His stable of women, a hilarious assortment (Halley Cianfarini, Jen Bechter, Jessica Crouch, Shiloh Goodin, Phoebe Pearl, and Terry Lavell) has something for everyone.
An old man, Erronius (c) circles the stage in search of his lost children. When Philia finally meets the man who bought her, you can see they belong together, but not in the way you think. The set up, with story lines akin to those in Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, is a take off on the work of Roman playwright Plautus. Stephen Sondheim's music emerges mysteriously from behind the set. Was there an orchestra hidden in the house?
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