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Last night we went to one of the 20 or so Lysistrata Project readings in the city, as performed by Running With Scissors and the American Theater Company.

I was hoping to see a more traditional Lysistrata, but I was up for anything. This adaptation of the classic play is considerably modernized -- Athenians as shallow, complacent consumers too busy with spa treatments and tabloid TV to expend much concern for the 100-year-old war with Sparta. Because the war is fought afar and blood has not been spilled at home, most Athenians unconditionally support the unending war they studied in grade school, that's simultaneously being marketed and manipulated by the Congress and the Media.

In fact, there's so much added backstory, it was nearly an hour before we got to the meat of the play: Lysistrata leading the women of Greece to withhold sex until the war is over. While it was interesting to see how she came to this quest, much of the additional material seemed to be crammed in to underscore points that the original play already makes quite nicely, or to toss in ideas not addressed by Aristophanes that may or may not really have a place here (such as making Lampito a Spartan revolutionary who becomes Lysistrata's slave). Sort of a satirical grab-bag, an issues-du-jour mishmash. A touch heavy-handed, is what I'm saying.

Last night's reading was also a sort of dry run for the company's full-blown production of the play, opening in May. The director even described scenes (and a dancing-penis song) that haven't yet been written. So maybe all the extra plot will work better when the show becomes the fully realized, multimedia extravaganza that was described to us in the director's monotone last night (with video screens and a funky soundtrack and giant phalluses on leashes and, you know, real action instead of actors sitting in rows of chairs). Although the message was timely, the execution was disjointed and odd.

Replies: 2 Confessions

I guess I'd have to wonder about a production where the play's historical context has been so grossly distorted. Athenians of 410 b.c. as shallow complacent consumers remote from the war? History reports the exact opposite: a decimated, impoverished and increasingly desperate population.

Markg @ 03/04/2003 02:09 PM CST

I'm assuming the writer/director was trying to recontextualize the play to critique current American culture. But changing so much practically rendered the whole thing a "Lysistrata" in name only.

amyc @ 03/04/2003 02:43 PM CST

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