Reduxion Theatre Company has a reputation for producing sexually charged shows, so “Lysistrata” is a natural for them. Ranjit Bolt’s adaptation (not a translation) of the classic by Aristophanes is directed by RTC Artistic Director Tyler Woods and stars RTC Managing Director Erin Woods in the title role.
Led by Lysistrata, the women of Athens, determined to end the war that takes their men away from them, decide to stage a sex strike. They contact women from other city-states involved in the war, and the strike spreads. Then they take over the Parthenon and the treasury, taking the action from the personal to the political.
The production was disappointing. Performances were uneven, ranging from a single level of strident activism in Ms. Woods’ Lysistrata, to a rather chilly performance by Mariah Webb as the seductive Myrrhina, to an enthusiastic and energetic Jessa Schinske as the baby-voiced Kalonike, to the earnest work of Lydia McKee Bond and Tori Goss as Female Chorus and other roles. The effective work of Denise Hughes stood out in both her characters: first as the strong Spartan woman Lampito and later as a lounge-lizard of a Spartan ambassador.
The men who find themselves deprived of their women are led, in this version, by the Magistrate—a strong performance by Robert Shaun Kilburn. The Male Chorus was Timothy Berg and Heath Jones, Jr., who also portrays the desperate and “teased” Kinesias. The male characters are, not surprisingly, less focused than the strong female roles.
Bolt’s adaptation eliminates much of the topical humor of 5th Century BCE Athens; unfortunately, this appears to have flattened Aristophanes’s double and triple entendres to a single layer of comedy. The text also features several song lyrics, as does the Greek original. In Reduxion’s production, the songs have been set to music by Kyle Gossett and Cartic Vengkatraman, both of whom have contributed to previous Reduxion shows. The variety of musical styles kept the audience from becoming too attached to any single time period. The abstract and classically simple set, by lighting designer Ciera Terry, gracefully accommodated the action in different eras.
The action began in what appeared to be classical antiquity. After the intermission, the action rather inexplicably moved to what seemed to be the present day. Director Woods has chosen to link some of the imagery of his production to the Ukrainian protest movement FEMEN, which uses topless protests to target sex tourism and promote feminist issues in Europe. In the second half, the story was centered in the FEMEN universe, including body-painted topless protesters.
The story could have been set effectively in either period, although the sensationalist protest style of the FEMEN movement definitely suits the Reduxion brand. Dramaturgical materials in the lobby were provided to help the audience understand the second temporal setting and the presentational choices of the director. It does appear that FEMEN has a specific body type that is acceptable for their public protest work, and Mr. Woods has chosen his cast to conform to that standard.
“Lysistrata” continues at the Broadway Theatre, 914 N. Broadway, Oklahoma City, through August 30. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8:00; there are two Sunday matinees at 2:00 on August 17 and 24, and one Thursday night show at 8:00 on August 28. Call 405-604-4730 or buy tickets online at reduxiontheatre.com.
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