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March 1, 2011 > Theatre: "A Funny Thing" - a perfect farce

Theatre: "A Funny Thing" - a perfect farce

By Diane Daniel

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" is coming to the Cal State East Bay stage. The show, with music by Stephen Sondheim, based on a book by Larry Gelbart and Bert Shevelove, will be performed in the Hayward Campus' University Theatre.

Director Marc Jacobs says it is "one of the most perfect farces ever written." It's also the ideal vehicle to showcase his star, student and Broadway veteran Carlos Lopez, and teach elements of farce - necessitating precise and comic timing - to his student performers.

Inspired by the farces of Roman playwright Plautus (251-183 BC), "A Funny Thing" tells the bawdy story of a slave named Pseudolus and his attempts to win freedom by helping his young master woo the girl next door who happens to be a virgin prostitute. The plot is rich in cases of mistaken identity, and satirical comments on social class.

"'A Funny Thing' takes comedy back to its roots, combining situations from the 2000-year-old comedies of Rome with the infectious energy of classic vaudeville," said Jacobs. He likes the way the show takes classic types that have been around since ancient Rome (the lecherous husband, a conniving slave, a vainglorious warrior, an airhead beauty), and mixes vaudeville and borscht belt, sitcom humor to produce something unique.

"I was looking for a vehicle for Carlos, a returning student who went away and did over 10 Broadway shows. He has an enormous sense of fun and is brilliantly talented, so I was looking for something that could be a tour de force for him, which 'A Funny Thing' definitely is. I think he only leaves the stage for a few moments in the whole show. He's sort of a ringmaster for all the insanity," adds Jacobs.

The show is both classic - it springs from ancient Roman theatre - and contemporary. Gelbart, the writer, was a collaborator with modern comedians such as Mel Brooks, Woody Allen and Neil Simon. "We have some really extraordinary actors in the cast, and I notice having Carlos in there, with all his experience, it's raising the bar for everyone and encouraging them to give 200 percent and play their best game," said Jacobs.

Given that "A Funny Thing" opened on Broadway in 1962, many theatergoers think they may have already experienced the show, but not the way Jacobs will present it, incorporating the casts' ad-libs.

Tickets at $20 for general admission; $15 for youth (3-18); seniors (55+) and alumni; and $10 for CSUEB students with ID may be purchased at the University Book Store, or reserved online at or by calling (510) 885-3118.

"A Funny Thing"
Fridays and Saturdays, March 4, 5, 11 and 12
8 p.m.
Sunday, March 13
2 p.m.
CSUEB University Theatre
25800 Carlos Bee Blvd., Hayward
(510) 885-3118

$20 General; $15 Youth/seniors; $10 CSUEB Students

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