Presented by Theatre@First
Written by Aristophanes
Directed by John Deschene
Choreographed by Alex Nemiroski
Review by Gillan Daniels
(Somerville) Comedies, especially those that depend on references contemporary to when they’re written, don’t often age well. Plays survive on the universal quality of their themes, like mortality, revenge, and hope, most of which belong to the sphere of drama. For a long shelf life, they must be built on ideas that resonate down the ages. It certainly says something about the nature of humor that Lysistrata, produced in 411 B.C.E. and one of Aristophanes few surviving plays, continues to be well remembered and celebrated for its bawdiness.
A young woman, Lysistrata (Leslie Drecher), decides to bring an end to The Peloponnesian War by convincing the women of Greece to withhold sex from their husbands. Both men and women suffer much in restraining their desires. Inflamed by desperation and sporting enormous erections, the soldiers finally decide to open up talks of a treaty.
Theatre@First does its best to update the story with modern wardrobes and music, sometimes even pieces of slang, but most of this is immaterial. The production really relies on the enthusiasm of its actors. Andrea Aptecker is enormously funny as the flirtatious Calonicé and Jared Hite as the woeful Cinesias, Myrrhiné’s (Kria Sakakeeny’s) desperate husband. The talent varies, but none of the actors are short on passion for the show.
Lysistrata mainly shows its age when the action slows down. It can be funny to watch Lysistrata and Stratyllis (Jenny Gutbezahi) strategize on how best to keep the women in the acropolis, of course. This is not as engaging as, say, the Laconian Envoy (Jason Merrill) attempting to hide his front with his messenger bag.
This is where the dancing of the play comes in. Choreographer Alex Nemiroski uses a lively mix of comedy and minimized storytelling at the beginning, middle, and end of the show. These replace the choral songs and dances of the original. They’re cute and tightly woven performance pieces, complimenting the rest of the show expertly.
Lysistrata is an adorable production from the all-volunteer community theatre. It’s sad other dramatic efforts by Aristophanes didn’t survive the ages, but I suppose he would be more thankful than not that he’s largely remembered by a play with a wealth of boner jokes. I recommend honoring him by seeing Theatre@First’s production before it’s gone.