adapted by Jennifer Wise and Lois Anderson

Dates and Venue July 6 – September 13, 2018 | Howard Family Stage in the Douglas Campbell Theatre

Director Lois Anderson Costume Designer Barbara Clayden Set Designer Drew Facey Lighting Designer John Webber Composer/Sound Designer Mishelle Cuttler Head Voice & Text Coach Alison Matthews Choreographer Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg Fight Director Josh Reynolds Stage Manager Joanne P.B. Smith

Reviewer John Jane

For the second time within a few days Bard on the Beach opens a play on the Howard Family Stage that is set in Athens with an all female cast. This time it’s an ultra feminist, ad hoc adaptation of Lysistrata by Jennifer Wise and Lois Anderson.

Aristophanes’ original Greek comedy was likely first performed in Athens around 400 BC. Wise and Anderson’s unconstrained re-imagined version shifts the tone from satire to slapstick. Lois Anderson as director allows a deliberately uneven pace with actors frequently dropping out of character and performance ranging from individually inspired to collectively plain silly.

The subtext of the play is that a company of actors are preparing to perform a female version of Hamlet, but with just hours to go before curtain, they unilaterally decide to switch to a production of the protest play Lysistrata to demonstrate opposition to a rezoning of Vanier Park in order for the city to build a marine terminal (we all know the feeling, even if it is ‘fake news’). The production uses this subordinate premise as an opportunity to create low-budget, though incredibly imaginative costumes and sets.

The (basic) storyline has Lysistrata, a highly motivated Athenian woman on a noble mission to end the Peloponnesian War by convincing women from opposing factions as well as her own region to organise a sex strike. The abstinence of sexual activity with thier menfolk is made formal in a detailed oath; even swearing off the practice of “the Lioness on the Cheese Grater” (I’ll leave it to your imagination to fathom how this might maneuver works).

Luisa Jojic is stellar in the title role, displaying just the right blend of jocosity and bravura. Ming Hudson is convincing as Myrrhine, who plays a charming game of hard-to-get with her husband. Marci T. House looked capable of kicking-butt as Lampito, the Spartan queen and claimed first dibs on costumes in her other role as the Magistrate. Colleen Wheeler was especially droll in the first act as a confused female Hamlet and Adele Noronha was delightfully madcap as a militant protester. We didn’t see enough of Jennifer Lines, though she looked suitably regal as Earth near the end of the play.

The second act is thankfully more fluid than the first, with a high point being Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg’s choreography, notably in the hilarious dance of the chorus of old men and the chorus of old women which more than anything epitomizes the battle of the sexes.

If you are looking for subtlety in theatre this show may not be to your liking. Nonetheless, everyone left the Douglas Campbell Theatre with a perplexed smile – including most of the cast.

© 2018 John Jane