BWW Review: LYSISTRATA at Lakeside Community Theatre
Currently on stage at Lakeside is the Greek comedy: "Lysistrata". Though written by Aristophanes eons ago, this play has many shockingly contemporary, relevant themes of women rising up to have their voices heard, while men consistently fight to prove who boasts the larger... ego. As an audience member, Director Dale Moon's forward in the playbill gives solid insight into the culture of 411 BC: "Ancient Athens was considered to be a "phallocracy" because of the everyday emphasis on the penis. It was a symbol of male power, of military strength, and, most importantly, fertility, both human and agricultural." Lysistrata is a Grecian matriarch, although such a thing would have been largely frowned upon in her day, whose simple aspiration is to end the Peloponnesian War through drastic measures. She proposes that the women of her nation withhold sexual interaction with their men as a means to protest their continuEd Battles. In turn, she hopes that the men of the nation will opt for peace in a desperate attempt to relieve their own, intimate tensions.
LCT is decidedly not afraid of thinking outside the box. Dale Moon tackled this dense script with a unique perspective; instead of barreling through the book head-on, he boosted the camp factor by setting the play within a play. Creating a 1970's styled performing arts troupe, the Psychedelic Furies, Moon weaves the audience through a web of time warps as the Furies perform "Lysistrata" inside an active disco dubbed Club LCT. In an effort to engage the audience the Furies are on hand before the show, during intermission, and post-show for a friendly, energetic dance party. The concept, while a clever and refreshing take on the time-honored play, lacks focus and causes confusion. Blocking often has unclear intent which initiates an unnatural quality in the bodies of the actors. Many times it is difficult to determine whether a scene is taking place in ancient Greece, the 70's discotec, or a 2017 community theatre.
The costuming by Tish Mussey aided in this disorientation. Accessories were all over the map from Grecian leather sandals to woven yarn beards to actors wearing fitbits on stage. There were women in 1970's dresses and men in cargo shorts. If the intent was to parody the Psychedelic Furies ill-prepared traveling show, it needed to be amplified. Unfortunately, it read as uncomfortable and haphazard.
Although portions of the production in this show lacked finesse, there were several glimmers of strong talent amongst the cast. Paul Niles and Ellen Bell lead the "Chorus of Older Men/Women" which causes them to have some of the most challenging dialog. Their mutual energy and contempt for one another onstage is the most powerful and polished acting of the group. AaRon Schultz also deserves praise for his portrayal of the "Magistrate." As the charismatic warlord, Schultz's character has a genuine authenticity and his comedic timing warrants a gold star. The standout moment for the evening, however, goes to Benjamin Keegan Arnold as "Cinesias." Arnold's entrance to Right Said Fred's iconic "I'm Too Sexy" bedecked with a log shaped phallus was show stopping, scandalous, and hilarious. His interaction with Mindy Neuendorff, playing his wife "Myrrhine", was a stimulating break from the middle-school-dance sexual tension previously displayed on stage and brought some legitimate chemistry to the set.
Lindy Englander as the namesake character "Lysistrata" did an admirable job. It is a difficult task to carry an entire show on your back, and Ms. Englander fell ever so slightly flat. While speaking with commendable power, her actions and overall body language lacked the grounding of such a strong character arc. She simply didn't consistently exude the confident tone one expects of a dominant role.
One thing can be said for Lakeside: they know their audiences. People were rolling in the aisles over the humorously placed props and phalluses, the disturbingly disguised drag characters, and the boundless barrage of flatulent sound effects. The camaraderie and appreciation for a growing arts facility is palpable amongst the locals, who were more than willing to join in the pre-show dance party and a post-show standing ovation. In the arts world, everything is valid in the perpetually developing process and it is encouraging to see the rallying support mount for this organization amongst its residents. I'd encourage those who are willing to make the short trek to give Lakeside Community Theatre a chance.
"Lysistrata" runs 8PM April 21, 22, 28, 29, May 5 and 3PM May 6. Tickets and information can be found at www.lctthecolony.com.