Guys, Girls, and Ghosts

A raucous new production of Plautus’ Mostellaria (‘The Haunted House’) at BU


Curious about Roman comedy? On Wednesday, March 26th, the Department of Classical Studies & the Core Curriculum are sponsoring a free public performance of the Mostellaria by the Ancient Roman comic playwright Plautus. V. Sophie Klein, a lecturer at BU as well as an accomplished playwright herself, is ‘facilitating’ the production (she’s keen to give all the credit for direction to her students!).

‘Roman comedy is the precursor to the modern sitcom’, she says. ‘These are domestic comedies, with everyday people, not gods or kings or heroes. The characters in Plautus’ comedies get into everyday sorts of troubles – mistaken identities, miscommunications, dilemmas about love and money. Then everything is wrapped up with a ‘happy ending’, though it’s often happier for some more than others’.

Despite its fanciful title, ‘The Haunted House’ offers many of these stock elements, albeit with a supernatural twist. ‘The play is about the follies of youth’, says Professor Klein. ‘A young man is left to his own devices when his father leaves town. He lives it up, but when his father returns, he has to face the consequences. There are plenty of jokes about what it’s like to be a college kid on the brink of adulthood, which should resonate with the students in the crowd. Of course, it’s all pushed to comic extremes!’

Professor Klein’s own students have been active in every aspect of the production. ‘The members of my Roman Comedy class [CL 229] have each adapted part of the script, updating its topical references, working in dance numbers, and trying to replicate the verbal fireworks of Plautus’ Latin. Through this play, they have been learning about the cultural, theoretical, and practical background to Roman comedy’. As for the cast, it will be made up of Professor Klein’s students together with other students from the Classics community, plus the usual hilarious cameos from faculty members from the Classical Studies department. ‘I aim to carry on the grand tradition of Professor Nelson’s Aristophanes plays’, she says. ‘The audience can expect kazoos, tutus – all manner of silliness. It’s a really fun event’.

But what about the outrageousness of Aristophanic comedy? Aren’t the Roman plays more restrained? They may be less profane, she says, but they are no less funny. ‘Plautine comedy is full of innuendo and double entendre. Characters don’t insult each other with four-letter words. Instead, they use a barrage of creative wordplay and vivid images – and, in the end, that’s just as funny’.

WHEN? Wednesday March 26th, 2014.

WHERE? Conference Auditorium, GSU 2nd Floor

TIME? 6:30. Come early (at 5:30) to hear Professor Jay Samons’ band, Fish Worship, with musical guests!

This event is free and open to the public.

Story by James Uden.