Hilarious cast injects zest into 'Forum'

January 21, 1996|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For an extraordinarily gifted fellow, David Reynolds is easy to take for granted.

The Chesapeake Music Hall mainstay is so good in all his roles -- from Jacob Marley to Tevye; from the nonsense-spouting Charlie in "The Foreigner" to the elegantly articulate John Dickinson in "1776" -- that it's tempting just to pencil him in for a fine performance and allow his immense gifts to go unremarked.

That won't happen when you see him as Pseudolus in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," at the Music Hall through March 17.

As the rakish Roman slave who will do anything to win his freedom, Mr. Reynolds creates the funniest character ever seen on the Music Hall stage. Pseudolus, in short, is Reynolds unleashed.

His takes are endlessly varied, and when the script (by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart) gives him a line, he grabs hold and puts his comic stamp on it.

His physical bounce adds to the emotional lilt of his character. Listen to the marvelous way he puts across the song "Free," Pseudolus' wistful declaration of intention, and see if you don't .. agree.

As the hilarious soothsayer about to "say the sooth," he draws screams of laughter from his audience. With him around, there's definitely "comedy tonight" -- and plenty of it.

Complementing Mr. Reynolds' scene-stealing instincts is one of the funniest casts assembled in recent memory.

Duncan Hood is a sheer howl as the aptly named Hysterium, the slave-in-chief whose nerves bear the brunt of Pseudolus' machinations. The Hood giggle might drive you nuts after a while, but nobody in these parts does facial and physical comedy like this guy.

There's a cute touch of Charlie Brown innocence in Scott Nichols' portrayal of Hero, the young man smitten by love, and Cynthia Lasner is indeed beautiful enough to become smitten with. She sings with breezy style as Hero's love interest Philia, even if she does have problems with basic addition.

David Leisure is suitably smarmy as Marcus Lycus, the purveyor young women. And, you'll love the amiable Peter Kaiser as Senex, Hero's father who is out to sow his last wild oat, unaware that the object of his affection is his son's beloved.

Of course with the delightful Judy Smith on hand to play Domina, his shrewish wife, who's to judge him too harshly.

Jay Philon is especially good as Captain Miles Gloriosus, the egotistical dolt who lays claim to Philia. However silly they might be, the Captain's songs are not easy ones and Mr. Philon rises nicely to the occasion.

Lending great humor to the proceedings are Joseph Detolla, Jamie O'Connor and Mary Armour-Kaiser as the hyperactive Proteans, a crazy trio who become soldiers, townspeople, tumblers and what have you at the drop of a hat.

That a few folks merely mouth their words in the choral numbers detracts here and there, but the overwhelming impression is that David Reynolds is a Roman ready to headline at Caesar's Palace.

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" plays at the Chesapeake Music Hall afternoons and evenings through March For tickets and prices, call 626-7515.

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