Lysistrata is based on the comedy by Aristophanes about women who seek to end a long-running war by withholding sexual favors from their men. As one woman puts it, “My body is closed for business until further notice.”
This Synetic Theater co-production with Georgetown University, which pairs Derek Goldman, head of GU’s Theatre Department, with Synetic’s choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili, offers a treat to fans of rude satire, but loses momentum before arriving at its peaceful conclusion.
The show opens with old women bemoaning the loss of their children to an endless war, then shifts to a long dance sequence of men demonstrating combat action by fighting with sticks while climbing around a three-tier scaffold set accompanied by shifting lights and pulsing techno music from Synetic veteran Konstantine Lortkipanidze – all vintage Synetic that had the audience instantly involved.
The talented Deidra LaWan Starnes makes a striking and charismatic Lysistrata, a worthy adversary to the men when debating whether war is solely men’s business and a skilled leader who manages to exert her will over her more emotional female colleagues when they start to weaken.
We first see her after the opening, when she emerges to describe her plan to end the war and encourage the women to join her. The dialogue is witty as Derek Goldman’s adaptation has the women describe their love of makeup and sexy clothes (a nice jab at consumerism and feminine roles) as well as their love of the male member in many of its colloquial names. This scene, and its dance sequence, offers the best opportunities for several members of a talented women’s ensemble to shine
To deny the men the money to continue their war, the women take over the Treasury building – complete with very nicely choreographed stage fight as the women defend their higher ground with household items (frying pan, rolling pin, broom, etc.).
The show does have some nice bawdy scenes – one involves the women jazzing their men up before leaving, demonstrating their ability to “make men’s life hard.” Another scene will feel familiar to any man who has ever participated in a coed aerobics class.
The show weakens as the story turns more towards the male perspective. It’s funny when the men grow more pathetic and call out to their women with a series of pet names. However, as the men become more desperate, they become increasingly crude. The night I saw it, the actors started to exaggerate their dialogue, egged on by the reaction of those audience members who laughed raucously at every mention of the male sex organ, particularly in an erect state.
More of the show’s mood is lost when cowboys sing the song “Lysistrata” to the tune of “Desperado.” The production strays past being irreverent to being sophomoric. A lengthy sequence depends too much on the ability of the audience to find titillating any mention of sex or any use of off-color language.
Just as the action starts to lag, the warring men capitulate, their life is too hard and lonely without their women and their families and Lysistrata leads them into making a pledge of everlasting peace and brotherhood.
Lysistrata is an interesting experiment in blending Synetic techniques with an ancient comedy. It tends to drag on a little long and could have benefitted from a little more of the Synetic magic of using dance to demonstrate plot.
Lysistrata occasionally crosses the line from success into excess. Nonetheless, the ability of Derek Goldman and Irina Tsikurishvili to make a 2400 year old political comedy interesting and entertaining is no small achievement.
Adapted and Directed by Derek Goldman
Choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili
Co-produced by Synetic Theater and Georgetown University
Reviewed by Steven McKnight
For Details, Directions and Tickets to the Georgetown production, click here.