By Aaron Worley
To someone who has never heard of a “farce” in theater, the word itself might sound ridiculous and a little weird. However, that is exactly what the director intends for people to think when they put on such a show. It is an exaggeration of a play, a not-so-subtle mocking of it and the characters in traditional musicals, comedies and dramas.
Matthews Playhouse’s newest production, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is no exception to the history of farces and aims to show the audience how a play dating back to nearly 300 BC can be revived in modern times. Set in those early times, the play talks about a Roman slave, Pseudolus, who aims to be freed by helping his master’s son, Hero, with his love life. The play incorporates slapstick comedy, exaggerated characters and unrealistic scenarios.
The role of Miles Gloriosus (Swaggering Soldier) will be played by Nick Southwick, a four-year veteran at Matthews Playhouse. He has acted in plays such as “Oklahoma” and “Joseph,” taking on different roles at Central Piedmont Community College, as well. He took on a variety of personas there, including mean-spirited and humorous ones.
To prepare for this role, Southwick said his method was a little unorthodox compared to most. He decided to separate himself from any other incarnations of the play, such as when it was performed on Broadway. He then made a list of actions he intended to try with the character. Once this experiment was complete, it was then that he looked at how others portrayed the character and what attributes he could use in his own interpretation.
He said this role really challenged him in thinking what the director was going for and how he could play off his strengths to satisfy the audience.
What makes this production different from most, he said, is that since it is a farce, the characters are named by their attributes (i.e. tough Roman soldier and clumsy servant).
One of his former mentors once told him, “You’re only as good as the obscurity of the inspiration that you steal from.” The saying inspired Southwick not to dwell on completely revamping the character but transforming the character with the mannerisms and qualities of past performers while adding his spin on things.
Tintinabula, one of the courtesans, will be played by Allie Hardin, who has been acting in productions in Matthews Playhouse since high school.
Her acting credits include “Miracle on 34th Street, “Zombie Prom” (which she considers one of her most entertaining roles) and “Aladdin.” Hardin used to play serious characters but admits that being in goofy roles allows her to grow as a person, both on and offstage, as she is forced out of her comfort zone.
One of her previous roles had her cast as “dumb blonde,” which gave her the chance to channel energy onstage for the stereotype and give herself a sense of accomplishment that she could be well-versed, even in such a simple role.
Southwick and Hardin agree that anyone who has never seen a farce before will know what the characters are from the jump. Any movie or drama they have seen, even on television, has elements this show can relate to, such as the romantic relationship between two characters and the conflict of a character versus his or her own mind, as well as between other characters. Both insist, though, that anyone not familiar with farces go in with an open mind and expect to laugh at the absurdity.
Want to go?
Matthews Playhouse presents “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, as well as 2 p.m. Sundays, June 7 to 23, at the Matthews Community Center. Tickets cost $22 for adults and $19 for students and seniors. Visit www.mat thewsplayhouse.com for details.