nytheatre.com review by J Jordan
March 15, 2008
Looking for a good time? Well, then don't call Lysistrata or her gal pals. Unless you want to end the war, that is. Such is the story of Lysistrata, the Greek tale by Aristophanes, brought to the thoroughly modern-day streets outside of what could be the Bronx or the Acropolis. There Lysistrata ignites her female compatriots to a worthy cause: withholding sex to stop the war. All in attendance agree they will withhold sexual favors from their husbands, who are busy at war instead of at home making "nooky" with their wives, until the guys give up and come home. To these women, war is useless.
And speaking of women, who says they can't be funny? The translator, director, fight choreographer and two-thirds of the actors are all women, and they're hysterical. You may have seen another version of Lysistrata or be familiar with Aristophanes's work, but I was not. Entering the spacious yet cozy and inviting space at Brooklyn's Gallery Players, I had no idea what a comedy I was in for. This piece is publicized as an "anti-war comedy," which may seem paradoxical, but that's exactly what you'll get.
Drue Robinson Hagan's translation is imaginative, lively and, well, kind of dirty—in a really good way. Her work is given the energy and excitement it deserves by Alexa Polmer's direction. Polmer is clearly not afraid of Greek plays, ensemble casts, or the mixing of politics with comedy. Her work held my attention and provided never a dull moment.
As for the cast, it's hard to pick out one or two actors above the rest. I thoroughly enjoyed the efforts of all on stage. Everyone from Lys herself, gleefully played by Meagan Prahl, to the underwear-clad men in the male chorus, seemed to be having a great time with the writing, the fighting, and each other. They were having a barrel of fun, and it was easy for the audience to have fun too. I particularly enjoyed the opening number wherein the women actors strut their stuff with song and dance. I also enjoyed the guys', er, codpieces, constructed with humor by Christina Gonzalez. We had no trouble identifying those rods when they hit the stage.
The costumes, by Crystal Fergusson, are the perfect mix of modern yet every-gal so as not to be too pointed about where in time and place we are supposed to be. The clothes do a good job of reminding us there are women underneath them without being too revealing, a refreshing mix of strong and sexy.
The lighting design, by Christina Watanabe, and sound design, by Jason Thomas Spencer, are supportive without being overblown. There were a few times when it seemed like less could be more with the sound effects—it's hard to compete with so much happening on stage—but all in all both designers do a good job of moving us forward through the play without distracting from the action.
As for Stephanie Tucci's set design—it is fabulous and possibly the best part of the show. The design is simple and elegant yet colorful and vibrant enough to hold the energy of the actors. Tucci's design allows for three different playing levels and two main structures that are able to be turned front to back by the actors, depicting both inside and outside the Acropolis. I was a little nervous about several of the actors racing around two sets of stairs wearing stilettos, but, if anything, it proves you can save the world wearing high heels.
To sum up, this is the only Greek play during which I've experienced men spending half the play in their underwear, the "F" word, and the elderly making out. If you're looking for a serious anti-war rally, you're not going to find it here. If you're interested in a fun evening filled with good production values and enough laughs to get us through these last days of winter, come on over to Brooklyn and visit the Gallery Players to see Lysistrata.