Give me a real funny production of Aristophanes’s “Lysistrata,” and I’ll laugh until my sides hurt. I am a huge fan of the play, and, at last, The Gallery Players deliver the famous anti-war comedy with just the right balance of hope and bawdy fun.
It’s hard to pull off a good production of this play. It’s been classicized, musicalized and adapted in a myriad of quirky ways. Its protagonist, Lysistrata, has been played in almost the full range, from nymphet to flaming feminist. But this punk version gives new meaning to the classic sex fantasy and arrives like a fresh burst of cherry blossoms in spring.
Lysistrata, played by the feisty Meagan Prahl, deftly shifts from the alluring to the feral. Prahl’s Lysistrata is one smart gal; she masterminds the women’s plot to seize the Acropolis and put an end to the carnage of the 20-year-old Peloponnesian War. Prahl passes muster with her commanding approach to her role and forcibly lays down the ground rules to the married women in Act One, which can be summed up in two words: Total abstinence. Her character is terrific as she persuades the cadre of married women not to copulate without the cooperation of their husbands to end the war. Sound like tough love? You betcha.
What makes the production charming is the fine writing of Drue Robinson Hagan, who has adapted Aristophanes’s original play (first performed in 411 BC) to “Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation.” Her version is clever, articulate and downright sexy.
Hagan’s play was developed in conjunction with the Lysistrata Project, co-founded by Greenpoint actor Kathryn Blume, back in March 2003, to protest the war in Iraq. Hagan became part of the extensive collaboration with other theater and private groups from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dublin, Tokyo, London and Sydney (and that’s the short list!) to redefine “Lysistrata.” At any rate, these thespians ultimately gave her doughty justifications for carrying on with her work.
Not surprisingly, in its mounting at The Gallery Players, the show brims over with global confidence. You have to give an A to the entire cast which has a firm grasp of the original work, and they turn on a dime in this freewheeling version.
Moreover, there’s such good chemistry onstage that one can truly sit back, relax and enjoy the play unfold, scene by ribald scene.
The twin choruses of old men and old women bring comic exaggeration to the very brink of goofiness, but their flawless timing of speech and gesture keep them in control. There are a few catchy tunes, but the show has more rhythmic talk-sing than real songs. In fact, Hagan has created a genuine verse play here, but you won’t find its rhymes overly predictable or schematic. And, speaking of tonal effects, director Alexa Polmer has also tossed in a sprinkling of commedia dell’arte, which is de rigueur with this piece.
Another notable in the cast is Shannon Noecker as Myrrhine. She shows clear signs of being a natural comedienne playing opposite the talented Gabriel Grant (Cinesias). And, of course, Jeff Bush, playing the Athenian magistrate, is a real ham in his role and gives the lowly limerick new risque heights.
There are no artistic gaffes here. Under Alexa Polmer’s briskly paced direction, the ancient anti-war comedy is still a must. No scene seems superfluous, and although a few playgoers might find the sex comedy indelicate with its synthetic phalluses in plain view (in Act Two), it’s hard to outshine this classic.
For this production at The Gallery Players, you should go the extra mile. Can ordinary people do extraordinary things? This play proves that, and much, much more.
“Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation” will be performed through March 30 at The Gallery Players (199 14th St. at Fourth Avenue in Park Slope). Tickets are $18. For information, call (212) 652-3101 or visit www.galleryplayers.com.
©2008 Community News Group
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