The Father of Comedy, Greek playwright Aristophanes knew a great story when he saw one. The women of Greece are sick and tired of their menfolk running off to war and leaving them behind, lonely and bored. What to do? Natural-born Greek leader – and maybe the first Greek feminist – Lysistrata has a plan. There seem to be only two things that all their guys agree are of paramount importance: war and sex, perhaps not in that order. So Lysistrata calls together all the Greek ladies in the land and gets them to agree to withhold sex until there is finally peace in Greece. Like any good comedy, all ends well – with smiling faces on both sides of the gender gap. First performed in 411 B.C., the play was a sure-fire hit. Over the years, Lysistrata has been subject to multiple translations from ancient Greek. As early as 1611 and into the present, Lysistrata’s theme has been adapted into all manner of artistry, including plays, books, movies, and television programs. Clearly, Aristophanes had some important ideas when he first penned the play.
Inspired by the classic Greek comedy, playwright Eduardo Machado had a different take on the tale. What if Lysistrata has lost her father, brother, husband, and now son to war? Suppose she gets the same idea – but in a culture bound by blatant sexism and devotion to the honor of fighting and noble death in war. Could this comedy turn sour – maybe into a true Greek tragedy? And how about adding some music and dance to the final product? Thus was born LYSISTRATA UNBOUND.
Overwhelmed by grief after most of the important men in her life have become casualties of war – with her son’s corpse now before her – Lysistrata (Brenda Strong) refuses to bury her son. Her defiance towards the ruling males and generals is at first shocking to them. Finally, she is branded as a trouble-maker and banished from their lives. Then the unthinkable happens. Lots of Greek ladies rally to her side and agree to withhold sex until there is an end to the hostilities of war. Now an annoyance has become a dangerous influence to the status quo. An amusing story suddenly turns very serious.
Directed and choreographed by John Farmanesh-Bocca, LYSISTRATA UNBOUND enters completely new territory for this ancient play. Brenda Strong presents a strong portrayal of an early anti-war feminist facing hostility at every turn. The ensemble cast features an amazing assortment of talent (Jo Bateman, Jason Caceres, Laura Covelli, Vito D’Ambrosio, Apollo Dukakis, Laura Emanuel, Sierra Fisk, Aaron Hendry, Steven Jasso, Casey Malone, Sydney A Mason, Dash Pepin, Briana Price, Jones Welsh, and Cynthia Yelle).
Mark Guirguis’s scenic design is simple but stylistically Greek. Bosco Flanagan’s lighting, Adam Phalen’s and John Farmanesh-Bocca’s sound, and Denise Blasor’s and Josh La Cour’s costumes keep the Greek theme foremost – while weaving modern dance and music into the tale. LYSISTRATA UNBOUND is just that: unbound from Aristophanes’ comedy, but at the same time a contemporary look at an old master.
LYSISTRATA UNBOUND runs through August 4, 2018, with performances at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays (7/11 and 7/25 only), Thursdays (7/28 only), at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025. Tickets range from $30 to $35 (with $10 tickets available only on Friday 6/15 and Wednesday 7/11). For information and reservations, call 310-477-2055 or go online.