March 24, 2023

The audience roared at the Wallace Theatre during opening weekend of “Androcles and the Lion” Feb. 24-25.

“Androcles and the Lion” is the first of two spring productions to be staged in 2012 by the California Baptist University theatre department.

The play is a comedy based loosely on Aesop’s fable “Androcles” that is performed in a slapstick manner, similar to Italian Commedia dell’ Arte.

“Androcles and the Lion” feature physical comedy, several musical interludes, with Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber songs, and an interesting relationship between man and beast.

According to director Frank Mihelich, the theme of the play is that only when we show kindness to others can we hope to turn enemies into friends.

The play has a little bit of something that everyone can enjoy, and Mihelich hopes that the audience, “does not sit back and relax, rather they sit at the edge of their seat and laugh.”

In the play, Androcles, played by Isaac Monroe, is a slave to a harsh, penny pinching, and hobbling master Pantalone, played by Ashley Setzler.

Androcles is an honest, hardworking slave who wants nothing more than to be freed from the wrath of Pantalone. However, he cannot run away because the punishment for a runaway slave is death by wild beast.

A neighbor of Pantalone, Lelio, played by Bryan Richardson, begins to fall in love with Pantalone’s niece, Isabella, played by Kayla Friend.

A bright spot of the play is a comedic exchange of love notes between Isabella and Lelio, with a little help from Androcles.

Lelio begins to seriously pursue Isabella when he finds that she has a dowry that will be given to her once she marries, however, the greedy Pantalone will do whatever he can to keep Isabella from marrying, so that he may keep the dowry for himself.

Pantalone must do all that he can to keep Isabella and Lelio apart, so he hires the egotistical and narcissistic “captain” to guard his niece’s bedroom and keep her locked away from Lelio.

The “captain,” played by Danny Lybeck, steals the show with a hilarious performance, highlighted by a monologue where he lists all of the “impressive” attributes he uses to make the ladies swoon.

Androcles helps Isabella trick the captain and escape with Lelio to the forest. Isabella leaves her dowry behind and Androcles goes after them into the forest, becoming a runaway slave.

The rest of the play is about Androcles attempting to escape from capture and in the process meeting a wild beast in the forest.

The chase continues on until it comes to an unlikely end with a showdown in the middle of a Roman Coliseum.

Strong performances by the whole cast, most notably Monroe, Setzler and Lybeck make “Androcles and the Lion” a cheesy, witty and fun theatre production.

“Androcles and the Lion” has three more shows: March 2 at 8 p.m. and March 3 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

The CBU theatre department is currently in rehearsal for the next production, “The Will Rogers Follies: A Life In Review,” which opens April 13.

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