KPBS AIRDATE: OCTOBER 27, 2000
It’s World Peace Week, and the Internet is flooded with emails calling for women to come forward and assert their nonviolent natures to help resolve the conflict in the Middle East. There couldn’t be a better time for “Lysistrata,” the 2500 year-old comedy about women withholding sex until the their men end the Peloponnesian War.
SDSU is giving us a double-dose of Aristophanes. Through the weekend, there’s a version of his antic original, and for two nights only, there was a staged reading of “The Happiest Girl in the World,” the rarely-seen 1961 musical adaptation of “Lysistrata.” Both are aptly bawdy and over-the-top, as they undoubtedly were in Aristophanes’ day. But the message comes through loud and clear.
In the comedy, directed by Peter Larlham, with a cast of thousands (34, to be exact), the acting leaves a good deal to be desired, except for Sasha Harris as the leading lady, Lysistrata. Her voice is powerful and her manner commanding. The costumes, designed by MFA student Maren Lyman, are terrific, with their hilariously dangling (and sometimes removable) sexual appendages. And the set, by another student, Mark-Austin Rowell, tweaks the wartime posters of Uncle Sam and Rosie the Riveter, and gives us a beautifully crafted paean to Greek architecture, a frieze-topped temple, magically lit by student Don Hill.
The musical version, a new adaptation by David Wolf and director Rick Simas, fares far better; it’s funny without slipping into silliness. The music, by Jacques Offenbach, sounds decidedly retro, but the Yip Harburg lyrics are incredibly clever. The singing, by a highly competent cast of 18, is marvelous, and the humor and topical references are delivered with deliciously dripping irony. The show’s comic centerpiece is SDSU alum Chris Moad, a funnyman who’s seen far too little on local stages. With all these ingredients, the show should make for a tasty full-scale production, if the music can be souped up a bit.
The Globe just gave us “The Trojan Women,” and now we get The Greeks– two ancient, potent, feminist anti-war statements, exceedingly well-timed. Let’s hear it for the girls!
©2000 Patté Productions Inc.