Imagine the slapstick comedy of the Three Stooges, Laurel & Hardy and the Marx Brothers, all rolled into one play. Now place the setting in ancient Rome to envision the upcoming theater production of "Braggart Soldier," performed by students at Grand Valley State University, beginning April 1, which fittingly is April Fool's Day.
Don't be fooled by the ancient setting and characters. Based on the Roman comedy "Miles Gloriosus" by Plautus, this translation, by Erich Segal with modern twists, is as popular today as in ancient times and was the inspiration for Stephen Sondheim’s "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."
"Braggart Soldier" refers to the main character Pyrgopolynices, who brags openly and often about his supposed greatness, while the rest of the characters feign their admiration and secretly plot against him. Stock characters including a pair of young lovers and a wily servant, spice up the secret plots and cases of mistaken identity with their own delusions and trickery.
"This is a fun way to bring attention to the Classics in a cartoon come-to-life way," said director Ben Cole, visiting assistant professor of theater, in Grand Valley's School of Communications. Cole, a member of the Society of American Fight Directors, also brings his expertise to scenes including stage combat, making them appear realistic while ensuring the safety of actors.
Other authentic elements include costumes inspired by Roman togas and gladiators, and an all-student sound design and performance team. Following ancient tradition, the "musicians" will be included on stage to create comedic sound effects throughout the performance. "Come expecting a wild and fun time," said Cole.
Performances, which run two hours, are April 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9, at 7:30 p.m. and April 3 & 10 at 2 p.m., at Grand Valley's Louis Armstrong Theatre, Performing Arts Center, Allendale Campus. Tickets, $6-12, are available at the LAT box office at (616)-331-2300, Startickets at 800-585-3737, or www.startickets.com. For more information visit www.gvsu.edu/theatre.