‘Lysistrata’ at Greenbelt Arts Center by Amanda Gunther


The premise is simple: the women are sick of the men never being at home because they are constantly at war. The women also want a say in how the government money is run so that the men will stop spending it all on the war. So the women, lead by Lysistrata, go on strike; but not just any kind of strike – a sex strike, refusing to provide sex from their husbands and lovers until the men agree to end the war. Chaos and hilarity ensue in this far-out production that you won’t soon forget.

Rhodippe, Lysistrata, and Lampito as Charlie’s Angels, featuring (L-R) Mikki Barry (Rhodippe), Lisa Hill-Corley (Lysistrata), and Rebecca Hranj (Lampito).

Director Jaki Demarest transforms the play space into a mellow hangout for the Greek ladies to lay back with their love. Glittery peace symbols adorn the front of each step that leads up to the Acropolis and bright pink and orange columns covered in hearts, butterflies, and peace signs flank either side of the set. Demarest gives us neon green shag carpet and big plush pillows to complete the love palace, letting the set exude an air of groovy relaxation.

Demarest makes a hybrid fusion of Greek and Hippy for the costumes worn by the various women. Long flowing sensual tunics accented by peace necklaces, flowers woven into their hair, and rose colored glasses make for a unique combination that screams how the Gods love the 60’s.

Often times when adapting a classic it is easy to get caught up in the striking features that define the adaptation; but this is not a problem for Demarest. Leaving the original text spoken in the ancient Greek dialect she finds clever little ways to highlight the 1960’s. There poignant moments selected where an appropriately related song of the era is thrown in and sung by the women, including such hits as “All You Need is Love,” “Stoned Soul Picnic,” and “Give Peace A Chance.” This last number is sung as the women march on their principle to “occupy the Acropolis” waving rainbow flags and bright signs that say things like “Hell No! We Won’t Go!” It’s an impressive interpretation of the barricade scene and still maintains the essence of the message while reflecting the time period’s importance.

Lysistrata (Lisa Hill-Corley) is a commanding force to be reckoned with as she leads this charge against the men, unifying the women despite their lusty and willful desires. Corley is level headed and grounded in her speeches, pacing them evenly but with feeling, and conviction. When she leads the women to speak as one – in unison their voices become the fearsome battle crow of girl power, echoing the sexual politics that drive their movement.

While Corley is the grounded voice of forceful reason, Stratyllis (Erica Smith) is purely force. Smith imbues her character with a dominatrix essence, from her kinky but frightening black leather platform boots with flames that lick up the sides, to her wicked sharp tongue as she debases the men every chance she gets, to her sheer brute strength, this girl is no flower. Smith is captivating and powerful making Rosie the Riveter look like a simpering Juliet.

With the forces covered that only leads lust. Spear-heading this sensual campaign on behalf of the females are Myrrhine (Lauren Beward) and Calonice (Erin Michelle Jones). Both Jones and Beward dote about the stage completely obsessed with sex; their voices slow and lusty, every flounce of their bodies an expression of the burning carnal desire. Beward gets her tease on when tempting her husband Cinesias (Joshua Engel) with all of the wonders he simply cannot have until the men put an end to the war. Both of these women make fine seductresses, and further enhance the cause of peace for all and good will in the pants of men.

And while this show is dominated by the women without the men there wouldn’t be cause to show off all of that femme fatal spirit. Engel, with possibly the worst case of pent-up frustration and blue balls ever recorded in history, lays back into his character’s pitiful bemoaning with ease. He truly expounds upon the tragedy of sex being withheld by his wife with a great sorrow. The Magistrate (Paul Davis) is no exception to this embarrassing plight. One moment a tall proud man of Athens, the next brought to his knees with unfulfilled desire.

Keep your eyes out for the Honorary Members (Peter Orvetti, and Steve Calamia) as they are a rousing part of this show. Both Orvetti and Calamia take on the hardest task of all; managing to stay straight up through even the most tempting of moments. They’ll leave you in stitches as they point the way to all of man’s troubles.

Michael McCarthy (Manes), Gary Wynn (the Spartan Ambassador), Sidney Davis (Micon), Paul Davis (the Athenian Magistrate), Erin Michelle Jones (Calonice), and Lauren Beward (Myrrhine). Photo by Jaki Demarest.

Lysistrata is a sexually charged comedy with peace-pipe smoking – the good 60’s kind, and a great moral story about how women have all the power and should men forget it then find a cold shower.

Running Time: One hour and 20 minutes with one intermission.

Lysistrata plays through September 1, 2012 at The Greenbelt Arts Center – 123 Centerway in Greenbelt, MD. For ticket reservations, call the box office at (301) 441-8770, or purchase them online.

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