Sex is power in 'Lysistrata'

"Lysistrata" at SU Drama or, how many times can you say "sex" in a review? The answer, not enough.

If anyone is wondering where their socks went, look in the obscenely tight pants of the male cast members in Lysistrata, now being performed by SU Department of Drama. It features numerous male cast members in their underwear, which inevitably gives rise to the question: “Is it real or stuffed?”

For this bawdy sexual comedy, this kind of thinking is necessary to enjoying it. So lay back and get in position.

Lysistrata, by Aristophanes was first performed in 411 B.C. in Athens. The story is the same as it has always been. To try and end the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, the women of the Grecian city-states band together. They withhold the only powerful chip they have, sex, in order to stop the men from fighting each other.

Stephen Cross’ direction, Meggan Camp’s costumes, and Kate Foretek’s sound design keeps the look and action of the characters modern. In conjunction with the ancient material, the production is an odd and eclectic mix of old and new, ancient Greek columns interspersed with pillars shaped like penises.

Lysistrata, who rallies the women towards this sex-withholding scheme, wears a Grecian-style dress with yellow caution tape over her breast. It’s the most obvious costume metaphor.
The combination of new aesthetic over the old, and of things that are beautiful and obscene, is both strange and compelling. It causes you to look closer to examine all of the details.  Be sure to look at what the cast members are doing on the sidelines, it’s as funny as what is going on in the main stage.

Milly Millhauser makes her main stage debut as Lysistrata, who is powerful in her first lines. She carries the role well, though her line delivery becomes flat as the play progresses, especially when she is rallying the women to support her sexual cause.

Most noticeable is Kendal Cooper, who makes a feisty Lampito, a Spartan woman - indicated by her dominatrix get-up. The bustier and lace-up pants are appropriate since she can be seen slinking against the railings and sticking her tongue out in a hilarious manner that would have made the members of Kiss proud.

Additional points go to Amos VanderPoel as the councilor, who spends the entire play in his underwear and a cape. Costume designer Meggan Camp must have been inspired by “300.”

The SU Drama cast are young for their parts, most noticeable are the Old Men Chorus and the Old Women Chorus. Yet their enthusiasm and willingness to leave behind every ounce of dignity in the name of art, is infectious.

They also meander well through the dialogue, which is an unusual mix of classical speech (“today we occupy the citadel”) and modern slang (“boink”). The purpose is understood but the effect never goes beyond the novelty, and the occasional dirty joke. And some parts were unintelligeable, perhaps having to do with the chants that were sometimes not completely in sync.

But it’s the ending that saves the play. The cast partakes in an uproarious orgy of tension and anger that ends on a solemn note. It is a cynical indicator of human tendency to blindly repeat past mistakes, trapping us all in a never-ending vicious cycle of war, destruction and sex.

For what was initially advertised as a bawdy, sexual comedy, it’s a welcomed cold shower.

Come See the Show

What: "Lysistrata" by Aristophanes, at SU Drama

When: Until Feb. 27

Where: Storch Theatre, Syracuse Stage, 820 E. Genesee St., Syracuse

Tickets: $18 adult, $16 students and seniors. $8 rush tickets are available one hour before curtain at the door

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