Ancient Greek historian Thucydides introduced his majestic History of the Peloponnesian War by claiming it was “not a piece of writing designed to meet the needs of the immediate public, but was done to last forever.” In the contemporaneous comedy Lysistrata, in which the women of Athens deny the men of the city sex in order to hasten an end to that long-running conflict, playwright Aristophanes created a work which accomplished both: Popular in antiquity, the story of complicated gender roles and a yearning for simple peace resonates to this day.
P. Seth Bauer’s THE LYSISTRATA PROJECT has more present-minded concerns. In a light yet raunchy text that quotes playfully from Shakespeare (“something is rotten in the state of New Athens”), Bauer transforms the struggle for peace to one for reproductive rights. Bauer’s Lysistrata (Miriam White) urges the women of New Athens to give up “the one thing men do for them” to protest a law requiring a husband’s permission to obtain birth control.
Griffin Stanton-Ameisen gives a characteristically committed performance as sexist Senator Muckaleus; he and White lead a strong ensemble (Allison Garrett directs). The production is fun (giant phalli!) and the sexism of men who think they can legislate over a woman’s body is satirized well (“how will women know what to do with their bodies if we don’t guide them?”).
Few in the liberal-minded world of Philadelphia independent theater will be threatened or moved by this satire. Still, the misogynistic mumbling of right wing politicians during the last election season and the reactionary anti-abortion laws passed by a number of American states demonstrate that this is a live issue. THE LYSISTRATA PROJECT may be uncontroversially du moment, but its satire is on target and the cast’s joyful performances provide much to delight. May 15 to June 2, 2013. simpaticotheatre.org.
- Deb Miller’s review on Stage Magazine.
- Five things you didn’t know about ancient comedies.
- Previous Phindie coverage of Simpatico Theatre Project.