Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pseudolus


Pseudolus
The Onomatopoeia Theatre Company
off-off-Broadway
directed by Thomas R. Gordon
with  Miranda Webster
Sarah Hegarty

Plautus lived around the year 100 BC, his comedies are some of the earliest examples of Roman literature we have. One of the best known is Pseudolus. The playA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was based in part on this play.

Pseudolus is an example of comedy about the clever slave, in this case Pseudolus, naturally a role written for a man but played here by an actress, Miranda Webster. Pseudolus connives to get some money so that the son of his master can buy the slave girl he loves from her master, also naturally a role written for a man but played here by an actress, Sarah Hegarty. Naturally, by the end of the play Pseudolus succeeds in getting the money for the girl, but only after some pretty crafty work and some pretty complicated plot turns.

The Onomatopoeia Theatre Company has just staged Pseudolus in a passable production. Director Thomas Gordon has directed with a great deal of whimsy. He’s given his actors leave to improvise, and so the do. It gives the show a pleasant giddiness but it also obscures the action.

Gordon has failed to explicate the complicated plot. He keeps the pace snappy by having his cast deliver the lines allegro. The problem is that the lines are delivered so quickly that many of them – very many of them – are unintelligible. The leading actresses don’t have the diction skills to handle the speed. The audience is left behind, frustrated at not being able to follow the complex plot. The show is railroaded so mercilessly that it has no rhythm. This is not the way to make a long play seem shorter.

To make matters worse, both lead actresses’ voices squeak so much when they jump into their upper registers that it’s quite annoying. And Mdme Hegarty has an impenetrable British accent.

On the rbight side, both actresses, however, are clearly talented and both have animated relationships with the audience. The two men in the cast work very well, with a sense of the style and intelligible diction.

Onomatopoeia’s ambitious choice of material is appreciated. But Pseudolus is decidedly uneven.