While there are a lot of things directors expect audiences to get out of their shows, pain is not usually one of them. But Jennifer Resolme expect people to walk away with a bit from "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."
"As much as I love profound, really deep theater, every once in a while you need a great comedy," she said, "when you leave with your stomach hurting because you laughed so much."
Set in ancient Rome, the story focuses on the residents of three adjacent houses. In the center is the house of Roman senator Senex (Adam Fernandez), who lives with wife Domina (Ariel Clark), son Hero (Dominic Demay) and several slaves, including head slave Hysterium (Tyler Vernon) and Pseudolus (Jason McClain), who drives the show's plot.
Pseudolus will do whatever it takes to secure his freedom. Upon learning his master, Hero, is in love with Philia (Princess Pellett), the courtesan next door, the slave strikes a deal to help win her love in exchange for being freed. Matters are complicated by the fact that their neighbor, Marcus Lycus (Mason Edwards), a purveyor of beautiful women, has promised the fair maiden to Miles Gloriosus (Derreck Reed), a captain in the Roman army.
High jinks ensue, involving the home of their other neighbor, Erronius (Tim Fromm), who has taken off to search for his children who were stolen by pirates as infants, and the Proteans (Jordan Fulmer, Aidan Cline and Eli Castillo), a trio who play multiple roles during the show.
"I have such a great time at rehearsal every night. When you have the comedians I have in my cast, it’s a riot."
"The hardest thing will be them staying in character. They're great improv artists. They are all so funny they make each other laugh."
That comedy crew is headed up by McClain, whom Resolme describes as "Bakersfield's Nathan Lane," no small praise considering the Broadway actor took home a Tony for playing the bawdy slave in 1996.
Of her star, she added, 'He is one of the best actors and musical performers in town."
That performance is aided by the spot-on work of vocal director Nichole Heasley and choreographer Natalia Mallory, a former student of Resolme's.
"We’ve been collaborating for 10 years, ever since she graduated," Resolme said of Mallory. "On top of the comedy, we have some amazing choreography."
Resolme said the cast is ready to leave audiences in stitches.
"People will laugh throughout. They will leave in just a good mood."