TRME's Lysistrate presented without complex interpretation
The Tech Random Music Ensemble.
February 3-6 and 10-12.
The Student Center.
by MARK ROBERTS
SO YOU THOUGHT PLUNGING innuendo and jokes about sex-starved men doubled up over aching erections were the prerogative of Benny Hill? The genre was alive and squirming several thousand years ago, and the TRME's production of Lysistrata offers plenty of both.
The story is simple: the women of Athens are tired of their husbands' continual war-making overseas and, led by Lysistrata, hatch a plot to end it and set the country back on a more peaceful footing. Seizing the temple of Athene as a stronghold, they withdraw their sexual favors until enforced celibacy brings the men to their knees. The language is a steady barrage of puns and innuendo that encompasses both straight forward smut ("sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands..." says one of the alarmingly tumescent men) and matters closer to the issues at the bottom of all sex war comedies ("I'll soon jack these women back onto their pedestals," says the phallocratic commissioner of the "impregnables" in their stronghold). The translation is a good one, for this kind of wordplay can travel poorly.
TRME are content for the most part in this production to let the play stand on its own merits without complex staging or additional interpretation. This demands a high standard of acting to keep the pace up, and unfortunately there are times when lack of experience shows and the action flags.
Lysistrata herself was played by M. Elizabeth Hunter (W '91). She and Lori L. Zieran '89 as the lusty Kleonike led the revolt energetically, although all the rebel women were hampered by some uninspired direction, that had them rooted to the spot in a flat line along the back of the stage for much of the first scene. This left them having to say their lines to each other over their shoulders, with eyes rolling uneasily back and forth between the front of the stage and their neighbors.
The Chorus, a standard part of any Greek play, is used by Aristophanes to point up some of his satire of other writers. This is no longer quite as scathingly topical as it once was, but there are nonetheless plenty of amusing lines of doggerel. Stephen Robbins '86 and Paul Selkirk as the "blokes with yokes," and Linda Sauter '92 and Heather Cleary '92 as the "bitches with pitchers" coped well with the unison speaking that their parts demanded of them.
As the Commissioner, Nick Papadakis gave the action a useful jolt of energy, saying his lines with the kind of wild-eyed conviction necessary to make such broad comedy work. One does not look for naturalism in a play of this sort, but ease and pace are all-important, and these seemed to pick up over the course of the evening. The resounding vulgarity of Aristophanes' humor means this play could hardly fail to please a student audience, and further performance will doubtless polish the production.
It is good to see the Student Center being used as a venue for drama. It offers plenty of opportunities for exciting staging, in a convenient location. Let's hope that future productions explore them.