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|October 9-15, 2008
Battle of the sexes
CU puts a bawdy spin on a Greek classic
by Gary Zeidner
To paraphrase John Bender from The Breakfast Club, political theater really pumps my ’nads. My man Aristophanes must have felt the same way. Why else would he have penned his classic anti-war work, Lysistrata, some 2,400 years ago, and why would Lysistrata retain such poignant immediacy today if leaders the world over still hadn’t realized that war should be the last, desperate recourse rather than the first reflexive one?
Student theater really gets my juices flowing, too. It is such a crapshoot. Attend 10 student theater productions, and your experience will likely vary wildly from amazed exuberance to angry bewilderment. Combine young, inexperienced actors possessing varying degrees of commitment to the project (the leading man may be eyeing Broadway or may simply have taken the role to try to get into the panties of the leading lady) with limited production values and often less-than-professional direction, and you have a recipe for anything from total triumph to abject failure.
I was thus brimming with excitement as the figurative curtain came up on CU’s Go Lysistrata!, a musical adaptation of Aristophanes’ original. After years of war between Athens and Sparta, both cities have suffered tremendous casualties, yet the conflict appears to have no end in sight. (Sound at all familiar?) The men on both sides are entrenched and have all but given up on anything other than resolution through complete domination. The women, too, yearn for an end to the war, and one woman in particular has devised a daring and novel approach for bringing it about.
Lysistrata (Amy Luna) gathers as many women as she can, both Athenian and Spartan, and presents her plan. If the women act as one and deny the men — be they husbands, boyfriends or lovers — sexual contact of any kind until peace is declared, the men will have no choice but to end the seemingly endless war. Sure, technically it’s blackmail, but their hearts (and other feminine parts) are in the right place.
Though the women take some convincing, they ultimately buy in to Lysistrata’s scheme. They not only cut the men off from libidinous release, they also seize the treasury ensuring that they have both the men’s balls and wallets in a sling. The men, naturally, threaten the women with arrest and violence, but the women stand together and their united front completely confounds the men. Though temptation is great and many a woman’s resolve is tested, Lysistrata holds them together until their solidarity wins the day.
Progress can be a wonderful thing. In Aristophanes’ time, all of the women’s roles would have been played by men in drag. Today, CU’s Department of Theatre and Dance lets the women be women and the men be men in what I must say is a decided improvement. Luna plays Lysistrata with strength and humor. She avoids one-note stridency while retaining command of the action throughout. On the few occasions when she is allowed to truly sing, one example being a blues number about three-quarters of the way in, her clear, assured notes reach the upper balcony with ease.
The best scene in Go Lysistrata!, however, belongs not to Luna but to Haley Driscoll as Myrrhine and Bryce Alexander as her beyond-frustrated husband, Kinesias. The two look like an old-time, long-time comedy team as Kenesias tries every trick in the book to get Myrrhine to break her vow of chastity and Myrrhine, in turn, uses all of her wiles to induce the worst case of blue balls in the pre-Christian era.
By combining modernized references with classic costuming (give or take the men’s protruding foam penises) and set design (plus or minus enormous breasts and phallic pillars), Go Lysistrata! succeeds as both cheeky entertainment and political indictment. It could do with more singing and less rapping, but as the underrated television show Futurama posited, thousands of years from now Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” will probably be considered classical music. Perhaps rap-style sing-speaking will become the norm in opera around that time as well.
On the Bill:
Go Lysistrata! plays through Sunday, Oct. 12, at the CU campus, University Theatre Mainstage, Boulder, 3030-492-8181, www.cutheatre.org.
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