BWW Review: Red Branch Theatre Company Shoots and Scores with an Inspired Production of LYSISTRATA JONES
LYSISTRATA JONES is a show that I knew next to nothing about before seeing the lovely production this past weekend at the Red Branch Theatre Company. I had heard one song in a concert of Lewis Flynn music, and had loved it. Also, I knew it was about basketball - also a topic I know next to nothing about. So I was excited to see what the show would entail.
Lysistrata Jones was played by the wonderfully talented Hailey Ibberson. Ms. Ibberson is a great actress and has a beautiful voice. Her Lysistrata was fun and spunky. Another standout of this particular production was Mick, played by Patrick J. Campbell. Mick could have just been a stereotypical jock, but Mr. Campbell gave him heart and substance, not to mention, a fantastic voice. The ensemble surrounding these characters were all equally talented. The whole cast seemed to understand the message behind the story - standing up for something you believe in and taking control of your own destiny - and expressed it in a way that was honest but fun.
One of the highlights of the show was the choreography. Because a great deal of the action revolved around a cheerleading squad, most of the dancing reflected that style. There was a lot of gymnastic type maneuvers and perfectly in sync routines. But it wasn't just the girls in the squad. The boys on the basketball team also had their own moves, and executed them just as well, with added basketballs. I'm sure arranging multiple numbers that entail the use of basketballs had to be a nightmare, but the Red Branch Choreography team succeeded in doing so beautifully. I'm sure the cast practiced these numbers for weeks and their dedication surely paid off. What made this choreography all the more impressive, was the space they were working in. The Red Branch Theatre is not a large space. It only holds about 100 audience members. The stage itself was also small. So the many flips and synchronized routines needed to be contained enough for such a small space, and big enough to wow the audience. Both of which they did. The outcome of this design and dedication was a fun, fast and acrobatic production.
The only real issue I had with the show, was the writing itself. For a show that wanted to be about girl power, the writer chose to use a few degrading terms for women throughout the piece. I'm no prude, but an entire scene, where call girls are referred to as, and are referring to themselves as "whores" is not a sure fire way to convey a message of empowerment. It's demeaning and probably should have been changed to something a bit more in keeping with their message. Aside from that minor flaw, the story closely aligned to the Greek tragedy of Lysistrata. In the end, the show is an inspired way to get young people thinking about plays written thousands of years ago, in a fresh light. And this particular team of actors and artists, were talented enough to do just that.