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Theodora Skipitares’ adaptation, direction and design of a play by Aristophanes
Music composed by Sxip Shirey
Ellen Stewart Theatre at La Mama
66 East 4th St., NYC
Reviewed by Larry Litt Feb. 6, 2011
A sly, romantic Lysistrata? Yes, finally a break from the contemporary deadly serious anti-war versions of Aristophanes' classic comedy. You should know that the play tells the story of several Greek women, leaders of their society, attempting to put an end to their men’s long lasting wars by denying them sex when they return home for temporary rest and retreat.
In her adaptation, Skipitares’ Lysistrata doesn’t focus squarely on the anti-war case as much as the lack of sex situation. The women of Greece are naturally desirable and desirous. Meanwhile their men seem to have other ways to satisfy themselves. What finally gets to these perpetual warriors is the pain they’re causing their women, not the pains of war, but the pains of domestic strife.
Interspersed with the play’s life size puppetry are giant screened videos of actual women’s sex strikes along with several other international political actions using bodies and sexuality as instruments for political demonstration.
Sxip Shirey’s choral music and scoring elevate the hidden cast players to politically entertaining heights. Sometimes they’re a mob singing and marching, other times they’re commenting on man’s cruel wars. Without the musical interludes this play would still be an exercise in masterful puppet making and handling. With music it comes alive as a Lysistrata with wit and movement.
Raquel Cion as Calonice and Stratylis captures the stage with body movement whenever she’s on it. She can overcome heavy masks and costumes bringing alive her old woman character’s nature.
Old men are hard to play because they can easily become caricatures, but Hakim Williams enlivens Drakis, a general with contempt. His minions, whom he leads in song, are loyal even under sexual duress. They won’t go home to their wives until given the order. When it finally comes, there’s joy throughout Ancient Greece.
Though it’s not for children, it’s message is wholesome family, romantic anti-war fun. I haven’t enjoyed Aristophanes this much since the Greek productions. Give it an hour and you’ll walk away fulfilled with all Lysistrata has to offer.
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