No sex until the war is over. Such is the premise of Aristophanes' comedy Lysistrata , translated by Drue Robinson Hagan and produced by the Gallery Players. Lysistrata gathers all the women of Greece together and convinces them to swear an oath that they will not sleep with their husbands until a truce is called to the Peloponnsian War, which had been going on for some twenty years at the time the comedy was written. A common issue with Aristophanes' plays is that his work is very specific to its own time; a lot of references and allusions in his text are lost on a modern audience. Ms. Hagan's translation does a fine job of contemporizing the script, adding a fun flair and rhyming couplets. Yet, one wonders if the ideas of Lysistrata work in our society. Lysistrata is boisterous and spirited. The play opens with all the women, led by Lysistrata (played by an energetic Meagan Prahl) singing a song in which they wish they were born in a more revolutionary and relevant time, in which they wish they were “punk rockers.” While the song does not relate to the plot of the play per se, it sets the stage for what turns out to be a very rambunctious evening. Sound effects are exaggerated: the chorus of older women dump buckets of water on the chorus of old men. The sound is that of a wave crashing against the shoreline; the water that actually emerges from the buckets is a sprinkling of paper confetti. The many fight scenes (choreographed by Maggie MacDonald) are accompanied by “bonks” and “boings” for punches and groin grabs. The women's oath to not have sex is an old school hip hop style call and response chant.
The set design consists of graffiti covered walls featuring lots of peace signs. The male chorus' costumes are grubby old man pajamas and thermals, the female chorus' costumes are brightly colored house dresses and bathrobes. The women's costumes are slinky, sexually suggestive dresses. Myrrhine, whose husband attempts to seduce her (with hilarious results), wears a blue dress so short that it could just be a shirt. Is this really a play that gives power to women or a play that simply gives men something to look at?
Furthermore, does Lysistrata speak to our time? In her director's note, Alexa Polmer states that the play is “one woman's quest to propel the powerless to end a twenty year old war. . .over two millenia later. . . we as a society are faced with a similar question regarding the current war.” While similarities exist - we are currently engaged a war that, at the moment, seems endless - it is unclear whether the translation's addition of contemporary references to the play works. The old men are called the “axis of evil” and references are made to a “homeland security.” Are such references too flip? Hagan has done a great job of making the play clear, and as Aristophanes himself made culture specific jokes, it should be all right for his translator to adapt the jokes to her own time.
Lysistrata is very entertaining, and as comedy should, educates while it entertains. The idea of women denying their husbands sex seems almost quaint in our society, yet the product is still funny. It also does raise the question, how does a country end a seemingly endless war? The play was read worldwide in 2003 as a protest to the impending Iraq war and is still relevant five years later, as that war plods on. With its radical suggestion for a way to end war, the play is important viewing for anyone wondering how we will get out of the war we're currently in.