'Lysistrata' gives us a wild time at the Parthenon
What a romping, merry hoot! The Webster Conservatory has opened a riotous production of Aristophanes' "Lysistrata". The adaptation by Ellen McLaughlin is some eleven years old but it's wonderfully fresh and is widely produced. Director Jamie McKittrick has put together a marvelous energetic trash-punk world full of music, dance and a whole lot of hilarious talk that I could never repeat on the air.
"Lysistrata", of course, tells the tale of a plot by Greek women to force their men into ending the Peloponnesian War. The women pledge to withhold sexual favors until a truce is signed. They barricade themselves inside the Parthenon where the city's war-chest is stored.
"Lysistrata" should only be done by the young! I've always felt this play was designed for a frolic in a fraternity basement with a keg, or perhaps for the Monty Python crew when they were thirteen. The two adult productions I've seen of "Lysistrata" have been more than a little embarrassing. But this fresh, modern, rude and bawdy adaptation is a beautiful fit for these smart and uninhibited college kids! And to wrap it with high-energy music and dance brings it to vibrant life.
Scene designer Marissa Todd does amazing work. Every pillar and wall, on-stage and off, is plastered with quite wonderful counter-culture posters of every sort. Hundreds and hundreds of them! Where in the world did they all come from? The stage floor is a million bright bits--perhaps ticket stubs? There's a bandstand with a couple huge speakers; there are four or five video monitors. There's a sense of chaos.
The show opens with a highly energetic band dressed in plaid kilts, belts with studded leather tabs, greaves, and leather. Musically they're an ordinary garage band, but the college audience welcomes them with great cheers and open hearts. Amplification is (by rock standards) blessedly moderate yet it's still too loud for us to catch most of the lyrics. The band does one or two numbers too many before the play actually begins.
But then Lysistrata and her friends arrive! Molly McCaskill plays Lysistrata. She's a sassy blonde in a fish-net body-stocking, high boots, a short chiton and a classic girdle with leather tabs. In a visual way she matches the band and presents a rather mannish Greek warrior image--if you can ignore her vivid sexiness.
The girls take the stage to do a gorgeous a capella number--and here, as in the text itself, the women come off as just generally superior to the men. Now Aristophanes was himself a man, of course, and the scenes of women literally panting and dripping with lust are quite clearly and simply male phantasies. But these young women whole-heartedly and merrily embrace all that. Moreover, the female common sense that abhors war comes through loud and clear.
There are many songs--most pretty bawdy--and much crisply executed dance. There is a lot--a great lot--of phallic humor. (Oh, that makes it sound so academic, and academic this ain't!) Well, whatever one calls it that particular bit of male anatomy is, let's face it, pretty ridiculous, and it comes in for much mockery. In this production the over-excited members of the men of Athens are presented in great and animated variety. The teasing scene between Myrrhine (Caroline Adams) and her husband Cinesias (Andrew Oppman) is particularly delicious.
The excellent ensemble also includes Hailey Medrano, Rebecca Russell, Leah Russell, Kiah Mckirnan, Makenna Perkal, Maya Christian, Mitchell Holsclaw, Hunter Bell and Jacob Cange.
Costumer Tyler Alexander Arnold uses lots of clashing plaids and occasional strong patterns to amplify the chaos of the scene design.
It's an ancient Greek Goth-Punk sort of delirious orgy of music and dance and bright sex comedy. "Lysistrata" plays at Webster Conservatory through December 17.