Brenda Strong Stars in LYSISTRATA UNBOUND in Odyssey Theatre/Not Man Apart Collaboration

 

Odyssey Theatre Ensemble collaborates with Not Man Apart-Physical Theatre Ensemble to present the world premiere of Lysistrata Unbound, a new and unexpected dramatic version of the classic Greek story written by acclaimed playwright Eduardo Machado. NMA artistic director emeritus John Farmanesh-Bocca (Tempest Redux, Ajax in Iraq) directs June 9 through Aug. 4 at the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A.

In this new take, written by Machado from an idea conceived with Farmanesh-Bocca, an aristocratic Athenian matron crushed by fateful events transforms into the most celebrated anti-war activist of the ancient world.

Two-time Emmy-nominated and SAG Award-winning actress Brenda Strong (Lillian Luthor on Supergirl, Mary Alice Young on Desperate Housewives and, most recently, Bryce Walker's mother on Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why) stars in the title role. The ensemble features Jo Bateman, Jason Caceres, Laura Covelli, Vito D'Ambrosio, Apollo Dukakis,Laura Emanuel, Sierra Fisk, Aaron Hendry, Steven Jasso, Casey Maione, Sydney A. Mason, Dash Pepin, Briana Price, Jones Welsh and Cynthia Yelle.

"Many theater-goers are familiar with the comedic play Lysistrata by Aristophanes, but I guarantee you don't know the play we're doing," says Farmanesh-Bocca. "We're reframing the comedy through a serious lens; a 'what if this were really the case' philosophy. If you are familiar with Eduardo Machado's work, you know he is a very provocative writer. At first, the play sounds as if it could have been translated from the ancient Greek. So the very specific and carefully thought-out juxtaposition of modern language, vulgar or sexual often times, is wonderfully interesting. Like a true Greek drama, the story is highly charged and potently powerful, with what seem to be sudden and seismic character shifts. But that's human nature. That's how we really are."

"I'm so pleased to be able to welcome John and his artistic cohorts back to the Odyssey," says Odyssey artistic director and producer Ron Sossi. "Our first collaboration, Tempest Redux, was a smashing success two seasons ago, and it was a great pleasure during the creation process. John's vision and working methods are unique, and this new piece promises more of the same. I look forward to Lysistrata Unbound as Step 2 in the Odyssey's continuing fruitful relationship with Not Man Apart."

In the play, Lysistrata is overwhelmed by grief after losing her father, brother and husband in the wars. When she is finally delivered the body of her only son, she refuses to bury him. Farmanesh-Bocca says he and Machado were inspired by American anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son, U.S. Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed by enemy action during the Iraq War, and who received national and international media attention in August 2005 for her extended anti-war protest at a makeshift camp outside President George W. Bush's Texas ranch. He brought this concept to Machado, and together they crafted a new classic from whole cloth.

The script for Lysistrata Unbound was first read as a part of the Getty Villa Lab Series in 2013.

The creative team for the Odyssey's world premiere production includes set designer Mark Guirguis, lighting designer Bosco Flanagan, sound designer Adam Phalen, costume designer Denise Blasor, prop master Josh La Cour, choreographer Alina Bolshakova and assistant director/dramaturg Jonathan David Martin. The stage manager is Gretchen Goode. Beth Hogan and Ron Sossi produce in association with Gloria Levy for Odyssey Theatre Ensemble.

Not Man Apart is known for its athletic and visceral productions, and Lysistrata Unbound includes extensive movement sequences. In 2014, Not Man Apart was named "one of the 13 innovative physical theater companies in the world" by Backstage. The Hollywood Reporter called it "a futuristic theater company," the Los Angeles Times praised it as "exciting and innovative" and British Theatre Guide found it "startlingly refreshing."

The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble was founded in 1969 when Ron Sossi decided to demonstrate that experiment-oriented theater could have populist appeal and be fiscally solvent while maintaining the highest artistic standards. Wildly successful and innovative productions such as The Serpent and Brecht's The Threepenny Opera immediately gained the Odyssey its reputation for producing dangerous, magical and experimental work. Now celebrating its 49th season, OTE continues to explore, produce and present works on the forefront of contemporary theater art in its three-theater complex in West Los Angeles.

John Farmanesh-Bocca is the founding artistic director of both Not Man Apart-Physical Theatre Ensemble (2005-2015) and Shakespeare Santa Monica (2003-2014). His Los Angeles directing credits include the award-winning Tempest Redux (Odyssey Theatre), Ajax in Iraq (Miles Playhouse, Santa Monica) Pericles Redux and Titus Redux (Kirk Douglas Theatre) Lysistrata Unbound and Hercules Furens (Getty Villa Theatre Lab), As/Is (The New American Theatre), My Wonderful Life (Malibu Stage Company) and Richard III Redux (Veteran's Center for the Performing Arts). Awarded an American Theatre Wing Scholarship, John trained at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts ('94) before serving as a directing fellow at the Julliard School's Drama Division (2003-2005).

Eduardo Machado was born in Cuba and came to the U.S. when he was nine, growing up in Los Angeles. He is the author of over 40 plays, including Mariquitas, The Cook, Havana is Waiting, Crocodile Eyes, Cuba and the Night, Kissing Fidel, Across a Crowded Room, Three Ways to Go Blind, In the Eye of the Hurricane, Stevie Wants to Play the Blues, A Burning Beach, Once Removed, Why to Refuse, Fabiola, Broken Eggs and The Modern Ladies Of Guanabacoa. His plays have been produced at Seattle Repertory Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, Hartford Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Mark Taper Forum, Long Wharf Theatre, Hampstead Theatre in London, American Place Theatre, Cherry Lane Theatre, INTAR Theatre, Theater for the New City and Repertorio Español, among many others. On the faculty in the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts since 2007, Mr. Machado has previously taught playwriting at Columbia University, The Public Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Sarah Lawrence College and the Playwrights Center. From 2004-2010 he was the artistic director of the off-Broadway INTAR Theatre in NYC. His work is published by Samuel French and TCG. "Tastes Like Cuba: An Exile's Hunger for Home," a food memoir by Eduardo Machado and Michael Domitrovich, was released by Gotham Press, and a new collection of his plays entitled "Havana is Waiting and Other Plays" was recently published by TCG.

Performances of Lysistrata Unbound take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from June 9 through Aug. 4. Additional weeknight performances are scheduled on Thursday, June 28; Wednesday, July 11; and Wednesday, July 25, all at 8 p.m. Talkbacks with the cast follow the performances on Friday, June 29; Wednesday, July 11 and Wednesday, July 25. Tickets range from $30 to $35. There will be two "Tix for $10" performanceson Friday, June 15 and Wednesday, July 11. The third Friday of every month is wine night at the Odyssey: enjoy complimentary wine and snacks and mingle with the cast after the show.

The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to OdysseyTheatre.com.

 

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