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New play puts spin on a 2,400-year-old classic

Girl power, it seems, predates even The Spice Girls as evidenced in the revival of the famed Greek comedy “Lysistrata” being performed at the Joe E. Brown theater this weekend.

With the current conflicts in the Middle East and two women being among the top candidates for a presidential nomination in 2008 by both Democrats and Republicans (Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice, respectively) today seems like the perfect opportunity to revive the 2,415-year-old classic.

This version definitely keys in on an anti-war theme professing the virtues and necessity of peace.

In this latest post-modern adaptation, the play incorporates buzz words and ideas with the original dialogue such as terrorism, homeland security and Aretha Franklin’s “RESPECT.”

The proceedings are suprisingly risque, even by today’s standards, including men with large phallic baloons tied to the actors, waists representing their continually aroused state.

The plot deals with a group of women, led by the intelligent and ambitious Lysistrata, who withheld sex from the men of Athens and Sparta in hopes of ending a war that is killing off husbands and sons.

Lysistrata surmises that the sex-strike will lead to the men becoming so desperate for physical affection that they will eventually agree to strike peace with one another.

Meanwhile, the older women, who aren’t sexually desired by their men, take over the Acropolis and seize the finances that pay for the war.

The entire play hinges on the title character of Lysistrata and here they do not disappoint. As played by Amanda Marie Clements’ Lysistrata is smart and cunning. She is able to walk a very fine line where she seems to fit in with the ribald sexual innuendo that runs rampant throughout the play and the serious issues raised throughout.

Her Lysistrata understands the importance of power, money and sex and takes control of all to achieve the peace she desires.

The play largely succeeds thanks to a cast that dives head first into the material including Lizz Clark as Calonice, the right-hand-woman of Lysistrata and Nick Wilson as the sexually frustrated husband of Myrrhine. They revel in the broad sexual farce and have a lot of fun with their characters.

That is not to say that the play does not have its problems. There seems to be a lack of economy with its humor.

I lost count at the number of puns about men’s penises and the even more abundant pelvic thrusts throughout the play. They were funny, but eventually grew repetitive.

Also, nearly half the characters in the play are a group of elderly men and women who, too often, speak in an unintelligble grumble.

This is particularly true of the men, who all seem to be channelling the later years of Jimmy Stewart in their characters.

The play is an often funny and sometimes poignant examination of wartime and, as interpretted by director Meredith Flynn, a cry for peace in a time of death. I wonder, however, if the play is really about the glory of peace and not the affirmation of woman holding power along with men.

The play deals with the classic stereotype of men using their power to get sex from woman is turned on its head as the woman use sex to obtain power from the men.

The woman take control of Athens by taking control of sex and money. And there is a certain equality among the characters, both male and female, as they all desire the pleasures of sex and can barely contain their passions.

To me the play was about sexual freedom and gender equality. Both men and woman deserve power, both love sex and both turn into blubbering fools when they don’t get enough of it.

Whatever the original idea Aristophanes was trying to express in his original work is for the beholder to decide, but one thing remains certain. The site of a grown male with a two foot balloon tied to his waist is hilarious.

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