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Review: THE TROUBIES' LIZA-STRADA at Getty Villa

Lizastrata With A Zzzzzzzzzz

Review: THE TROUBIES' LIZA-STRADA at Getty Villa

Lizastrata With A Zzzzzzzzzz

During the opening number, the Troubadour Theatre Company, affectionately known to all as the Troubies, comment how thrilled the troupe, and the audience by extension, is to have returned to live theatre. The audience responded with glorious applause, and both the occasion and the Troubies deserve that adulation. The Troubies, who have rocked Los Angeles for the last 25 years, are one of the most creative teams in the city. Their imagination and gumption has entertained with parodies of classical works infused with a musical motif such as Alice In One-Hit Wonderland, Much ADoobie Brothers About Nothing, and A Charlie James Brown Christmas. Their latest, Lizastrata, based on both the Greek Aristophanes comedy Lysistrata and the songs made popular by Liza Minnelli, could have been a dazzler, but with a gossamer plot, too many recycled jokes, and a venue ill-equipped to allow the cast to sing with heft, the latest production is uninspired.

Lizastrata (Cloie Wyatt Taylor) and her girlfriends decide that the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta must end. They use their feminine wiles to entice their soldier hubbies, only for the ladies to abstain from sex to make their husbands sexually frustrated. They figure the men will be desperate to end the war so they can dive into their wives' passions.

The Troubie shows always lean towards burlesque, but the current production - with protruding organs, talking and begging organs, and finally, detonating organs - becomes tiresome and an X-rated panto along the lines of the infamous naked Broadway musical Oh Calcutta! The improvisations feel over-rehearsed and the show is dragged down with obvious political humor. There are quite a few belly laughs but they don't feel earned, they feel cheap and shallow.

Everything just seems sloppy. Even the motif is off-kilter. There's an overreliance on songs from the movie Cabaret which is a shame because Liza Minnelli had lent her extraordinary technique to many songs, like "Bye Bye Blackbird," Sondheim's "Losing My Mind", and Marguerite Monnot's "M'Lord", amongst others, and the show may have been better served with a variety of Liza numbers. Also, the evening includes several songs that Liza hadn't sung. "Willkommen" from Cabaret is a great way to start the evening, but Liza had only a brief cameo in that song. The writers also chose two Chicago songs, which is warranted since Liza subbed for Gwen Verdon in 1975's original production. However, the songs chosen had been sung by Chita Rivera, not Minnelli. If they were picking songs that were in the vicinity of Liza, a more appropriate title for the show may have been Liza-Adjacent-Strata.

Of the cast, the only real standouts are the three veterans: Matt Walker, Rick Batalla, and Beth Kennedy. The first and best penile sketch grants Batalla and Kennedy to show off each's naughty prowess. After that hilarious scene, the erectile visual gags dragged to the ground.

It's difficult to ascertain the strength of everyone's voice since all the actors sang in a more hushed tone, presumably due to a sound ordinance the Palisades neighbors have imposed on the Getty Villa. Everyone sounded like they were on a leash, unallowed to really sell their Liza songs. Being a Greek play amongst many Greek antiquities at the Getty Villa Museum is splendiferous, but it would be preferable to be in on an enclosed theater stage, surrounded by plaster of Paris columns, had it allowed the cast to really run wild and belt those songs like Liza would have.

Normally, one may question if the expectations of a current Troubie show are realistic. Were those many productions at the Garry Marshall Theatre (formerly The Falcon), like Oedipus the King, Mama! or It's a Stevie Wonderful Life, as superb as remembered? Did OtheELO, this reviewer's first experience with the Troubadour Theatre company, really blow his mind with their ingenuity or has memory fogged those past experiences? Since many of the past dazzling productions can be found on The Troubie's YouTube page, and those videos have been revisited, memory DOES serve correctly and the productions at the beginning of the millennium were momentous, and the latest shows, Lizastrata in particular, pale in comparison.

Lizastrata plays at the Getty Villa Museum until October 2nd. Tickets may be purchased at https://tickets.getty.edu/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::permalink=lizastrata&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::context_id=. Note: At this moment, the entire run is sold out, but check back on the website for any changes.

Photo by Craig Schwartz




From This Author - Jonas Schwartz-Owen


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