Edmond Chibeau looks at performance and theatre from the avant-garde communication perspective

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Location: Mansfield, Connecticut, United States

Friday, March 06, 2015

Athenian Women on Sex Strike

Aristophanes by way of Jen Wineman
Nafe Katter Theatre
February 26 - March 8, 2015

When we decide to produce Athenian comedy from the 5th Century BCE we must decide what to keep and what to throw out.  Vulgar language, reference to contemporary social and political events, double entendre, poetic meter, giant artificial phalloi, pratfalls, and sexual allure are all possibilities that would be in keeping with the production paradigm of ancient Athens.
For this show the director decided to cut anything that isn’t funny and keep everything that is comedically compelling.   The rhyme scheme and the rugged scansion of the poetic meter are an important part of the comedy of Aristophanes.  Alas those did not make the final cut in the adaption-translation of director-choreographer, Jen Wineman.  But everything else that might make us laugh or hold our attention is woven into the fabric of this presentation.  The show is 90 minutes without an intermission, and I guarantee, you won’t be bored. 
Blake Segal as Commissioner Gordon is a slapstick whirlwind.   He slides down the banister, rolls on the floor, screams, mutters and foams at the mouth.  He reminds us of Zero Mostel at his most manic. 
Lisa  Birnbaum as Lysistrata is a both bawdy and refined.  She has a good sense of timing and articulates her lines with precision.  I would like to see her in a more sophisticated role.

Lysistrata is a play ripe for reinterpretation.
It is the ultimate High Concept script.  Once we hear that it is about women going on a sex strike until their husbands end the war we have a pretty good idea of what we are in for. Jen Wineman adapts the script from various translations and adds lots of topical references and one-liners of her own.  “I woke up like this,” is not a direct translation of Aristophanes but it is directly in line with his method of including popular references to contemporary Athenian culture.

The costumes, set, and music, place the action in the USA in the 1940s but the war that took place in the 1940s is not particularly mentioned or critiqued, nor for that matter is the Peloponnesian war that devastated both Athens and Sparta.  The scenic design by Geoff Ehrendreich is a wonderful contribution to the meaning and the mood of the play.
This production of Lysistrata is true to the spirit of Attic comedy and of 21st Century television farce.