What would happen if men and women were to switch roles in society? Assemblywomen by Aristophanes presented by No.11 Productions, aims at seeing if the grass is greener on the other side as men and women adopt the duties of the opposite sex.
No.11 Productions specializes in Theatre of the Unexpected, and as such they aim to “juxtapose seeming reality with the unexpected.” It is important to note this upon attending the production, because of its outwardly original artistry.
A woman named Praxagora (Sarah Whalen) bands together a group of women in revolt. She convinces these women to disguisedly approach the men at the Assembly and subsequently persuade them to allow the women to rule the state. The women believe that they could rule Athens better than the men have in previous years.
As the audience feeds into the theatre, they realize the show has already begun. A woman, whom we later learn is Praxagora, is surveying her surroundings. She dons a white dress and red cloak, while clutching a red lantern. At stage left there is a runway that extends out into the audience. Two women, also in white dresses and cloaks, stand there watching Praxagora. There is an ominous sound track in the background that is very reminiscent of wind on a blustery night. The action begins as Praxagora places her lantern in a center special and awaits other women. Two women eventually join her (Julie Congress and Alison Novelli). The women divulge to the audience that they are wearing their husbands’ cloaks and left their homes early in the morning. They have been preparing to address the assembly by growing out their underarm hair and fashioning beards. Now that they are properly attired, they begin practicing what they will do and say at the assembly. Actions such as knitting are promptly determined too feminine for the assembly. As Praxagora practices her speech, her two friends interpret her words through movement. Once the two women declare Praxagora their leader, they head to the Assembly.
Blepyrus (Steve Goodwin) enters in an article of clothing that is not his. He cannot seem to find his cloak, and searches for it, so that he may go to the Assembly. His friend (Ryan Emmons) wanders onstage in an ensemble that does belong to him either, and is also looking for his cloak. The two men serve as a means of establishing time as the Assembly draws near and neither can leave for Athens in their current attire.
Sarah Whalen delivered the best performance in this production, in the role of Praxagora. I found myself captivated by her every movement in the pre-show, and mesmerized by her every line once the performance took off. Her portrayal of this strong, independent woman was absolutely flawless. Her grasp of the text allowed me to understand even the most archaic references. She was poised and elegant in her comedic timing, and stood out as a cut above her fellow actors.
The trouble with the production can be found in the conflict between the scenes and the musical interludes. I found myself enraptured by the performance until each musical interlude, at which point my engagement came to a screeching halt. The use of pop music, and cheeky choreography, took me out of the production. There was a genuine and committed feeling to the scenes, even during comedic lines, which I found lacking in the musical interludes.
based on the comedy by Aristophenes
produced by No. 11 Productions
reviewed by Richard Westerkamp
Running time: 60 minutes
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?