Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Lysistrata Project"

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note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Carl A. Rossi


"THE LYSISTRATA PROJECT"

by Aristophanes; adapted by Carolyn Feleppa Balducci

directed by Susan Thompson and Kim Mancuso

Lysistrata … Lorraine Grosslight
Kalonike … Trisha Zembruski
Lampito … Lisa Tucker
Myrrhine … Wanda Strukus
Corinthian … Deborah Lake Forston
Ismene … Emily Correa

Old/Young Women’s Chorus:
Patricia Flynn; Elizabeth Greenwood; Kyna Hamill; Laura Hitt
Nora Hyland; Victoria James; Elizabeth Weisman; Allison Wyper

Leader of Men’s Chorus … Laurence Senelick
Athenian / Chorus … Jeremy Solomons
Kinesias / Chorus … Dev Luthra
Commissioner / Chorus … Peter Carey
Spartan / Chorus … David Russell
Bouncer / Chorus … Bill Hartnett
Chorus … Josh Randall

ASL Interpreter … Joan Wattman
Sound Conductor … Mary Curtin

Musicians:
John Bell; Roberto Cassan; Stephen Elliott
Kathy Hepburn; Tim Jackson; Maury Martin
Bob Moshe; Deb Silverman; Don Stevenson

Technical Director … Adam Brown
Technical Assistance .. Chuck Colbert, Josh Randall

A rain-soaked audience of over 100 people came to the BCA’s Cyclorama to attend THE LYSISTRATA PROJECT, billed as “The First-Ever World-Wide Theatre Event For Peace”. The event was hatched this past January by two New York actresses, Kathryn Blume and Sharron Bower, who wanted to protest the Bush administration’s proposed war on Iraq. Mss. Blume and Bower emailed their idea of simultaneous readings of LYSISTRATA to theatre artists around the world and instantly received enthusiastic support. Over 100 people may not seem like much in terms of a protest, but the Cyclorama LYSISTRATA was but one of a number of readings staged in the Boston area that night, with others taking place around the world, including all fifty of the United States. A total of 1,004 world-wide readings was the final count by curtain call.

LYSISTRATA, of course, is Aristophanes’ bawdy, anti-war farce, where the women of Athens and Sparta, tired of the war their husbands are forever waging, take matters into their own hands. Led by Lysistrata, the women seize the Treasury Building (no cash; no war) and hold a sex strike until their men, crazed with lust, declare peace in order to get their nookie back. (In reality, men will fight with sticks and stones if they must and will turn to each other in the absence of women --- still, LYSISTRATA is such a potent fantasy that it does make you wonder, “What if….?”)

How ironic that this 2,400-year-old play is far more outrageous than THE PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS over at the Copley Theatre. The two men who twist their genitals into hamburgers, roller skates, etc. have no intention of arousing their audience: their penises remain limp and stretchable throughout the evening; when one cheeky bloke impersonates a joey peeking out of its pouch, the women sigh, “Awwwwww……” --- they’re reaching for the talcum powder. There is nothing maternal about LYSISTRATA: the women are as lusty as the men, and when the Glory of Man is not on display, it is praised, worshiped and missed. And it is an ERECT penis, too, elongated for comical effect --- yet this throbbing totem is still taboo in modern society; LYSISTRATA’s fate has long been it is more read than performed. Pity.

I believe the bawdier the LYSTISTRATA is, the better; and it all revolves around the translation. For me, it’s the version by Donald Sutherland (no, not the actor), written in 1961. There is one line I will always check when opening a new translation; if it passes muster, then the translation is good: in the first scene, Lysistrata gathers the Athenian and Spartan women together to discuss her plan. Among them is an Amazon, Lampito, whom Lysistrata praises and fondles:

LYSISTRATA: …what a handsome set of tits you have! (Sutherland translation.)

In two other versions, she says:

LYSISTRATA: What lovely breasts to own!

and:

LYSISTRATA: What unbelievably beautiful bosoms!

Ho-hum. Another test line is when Lysistrata lays her cards on the table:

LYSISTRATA: We must abstain from conjugal relations.

and:

LYSISTRATA: We must refrain from all touch of baubled love.

I prefer the Sutherland:

LYSISTRATA: We must abstain utterly from the prick.

Carolyn Feleppa Balducci’s adaptation did not use “tits” and “prick” or even “boobs” and “cock”, but it was spicy enough and made its points (the erect cocks were mimed --- they would have frightened the horses were they suddenly made flesh). The Cyclorama reading was slapstick and slapdash but declaimed well enough for the most part (though the brass-heavy orchestra drowned out the choicer passages). The evening may have been rooted in protest, but a sense of community over-ruled: a collective awareness; theatre as ritual and celebration; a warm current flowing between performer and audience --- as it was, no doubt, when the first Lysistrata strode out on his cothurni over two thousand years ago.

And now I want to see Ryan Landry and his Orphans take on LYSISTRATRA --- in the summer, out on the Boston Commons. And why not? As those who attend their shows would agree, they’re the closest thing Boston has to Aristophanes --- we’re lucky to have them.

"The Lysistrata Project" (3 March)
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