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'A Funny Thing' – a perfect farce, a perfect student showcase performs this March


Carlos Lopez and Samantha Guida in "A Funny Thing . . .," coming to the University Theatre. (Photo: Marc Jacobs)

  • January 24, 2011

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is coming to the Cal State East Bay stage in March.

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 to teach the elements of farce – necessitating precise and comic timing – to his many student performers.

The show, with music by Stephen Sondheim, and a book by Larry Gelbart and Bert Shevelove, will be performed in the Hayward Campus' University Theatre, 25800 Carlos Bee Blvd. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, March 4, 5, 11 and 12, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 13.

Inspired by the farces of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus (251–183 BC), “Forum” tells the bawdy story of a slave named Pseudolus and his attempts to win his 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. 

“’Forum’ 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 Roman comedy (the lecherous husband, the conniving slave, the vainglorious warrior, the airhead beauty), and mixes in vaudeville, with borscht belt and sit com 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 'Forum’ 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,” said Jacobs.

The show is both classic in that it springs from ancient Roman theatre, and contemporary, in that 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.

As is typical with CSUEB performances, the production is collaborative: student Chalia LaTour is designing the costumes (a mixture of the Flintstones, ancient Rome, and Las Vegas); another student, Alena Samoray, is designing a two-story Roman street set; dance lecturer Laura Ellis is doing the choreography; and music director Marianna Wolff, who took on the same role with, "Urinetown, the Musical," three years ago, is a music alumna and CSUEB employee.

Given that “Forum” opened on Broadway in 1962, many theater-goers think they may have already experienced the show, but, not the way Jacobs will present it, incorporating the casts’ ad libs. If something’s said in rehearsal that get’s a laugh, it stays in the show.

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.

Campus parking is $2 per hour at meters, or $5 per day per vehicle from 5 p.m. Friday until midnight Sunday.

CSUEB welcomes CSUEB welcomes persons with disabilities and will provide reasonable accommodation upon request. Please notify the event sponsor in advance at (510) 885-3118 if accommodation is needed.

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