Roman Comedy is nothing new
August 9, 2011
I noticed Sierra Stages is producing “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
It may not be known by readers and potential viewers, but this is based on Roman New Comedy, Plautus and Terence, and of the scores of scripts that were written, all have the same plot: A young man has made a love choice that any father would know is wrong, usually someone from Western, uh, Heidi Fleiss County.
But then the old man (“Senex” is usually his name, and it means “old man” in Latin) is called out of town and the affair blooms. Then he returns unexpectedly and the couple panics and a coyoteesque rascal slave, the hero, is called in to save things, which he does.
What hope is there when there is so much predictability?
Comedy derived from peasant spring rituals in ancient Greece, the God of Winter becoming defeated by the God of Spring, spring itself, real time, becoming magically possible. We have weathermen to do this for us, and as far as comedy that evolved from this ritual is concerned it caused a renewal of society rather than a renewal of vegetative nature (the multiple marriages at the end of a Shakespeare Romantic Comedy point to this); but since the Romantic Era we have only been concerned with the couple, love, triumphing, not society renewing.
So, I am afraid that, unless some dream team of Burt Shevelove, Larry Gelbart and Stephen Sondheim is behind this chestnut-fed war-horse, and someone with the energy, seemingly effortless timing and clarity of a Robert Rossman up in the saddle as the slave, it’d be better to save your denarii.
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