Actors give life to ancient play

“Lysistrata,” a Greek play that dates to 411B.C., is brought to the 21st century and Gannon University’s Schuster Theatre under the careful direction of Paula Barrett.

The Athenians are at war, and the women are tired of it. Lysistrata (Brittnie Knight) rallies her troops to stop the continuation of a long, drawn–out war.

The league of woman combatants, played by Becca Lennox, Kelly Corcoran, Sharon Pike, Sarah Sgro, Jade Mitchell, Brianna Woods and Erika Krenn, have had enough of the lonely nights and loss of life that war brings and are ready for a battle of their own.

Erika Krenn and Khadija Djellouli (Ismenia) performed for their first Schuster Theatre Main Stage production and did a fine job.

The many acrobatic tricks performed before the show promise that the ancient Greek play is something different with the twist on the gruesome tale of a wartime battle.

The story is introduced by a rotund woman wielding a pink magical fairy wand (Bethany Johnson), a “Nanny” speaking chorus line queen (Christen Manion), and a Bronx bombshell (Becca Coleman).  The aforementioned also play multiple roles as the old women and Johnson needs no phone booth to change into Dipsas.

The three Spartans headed by Lampito (Natalie Pertz), who look like they could take on the Steelers and win, join forces and agree to challenge the boys in an uprising that proves to be firm and resolute all for peace.

There is a battle center stage when the retirement home escapees face off for the keys to the treasury.  The Geezers (Todd Parapacic, Conor Grey, and Luis Pontillo) engage the bowling alley Bitties (Christen Manion, Johnson and Sgro) in a tussle that becomes a love struck match.

The women swear off sex and the men just swear that the women won’t hold out.  The problem is that the Lysistrata-trained troops have the men’s attention and the men are hard-pressed to pay close attention to the pointed demand of the Athenian women.

There is a seduction scene when Cinesias, (Leo DeCapua) and Myrrhine (Allison Kessler) are faced with a decision to find a way to be faithful to the commitments that the two of them made, DeCapua to war, and Kessler to peace; the stronger Kessler finds that the art of seduction is more intellectual than physical and wins over her husband DeCapua.

The escape attempts of Belphargia (Mitchell) and a fisherwoman (Woods) are foiled by the hardliner Lysistrata (Knight) and show just how the ladies are suffering without the company of their men.

Patrick Chounet brings his whip to try to scare the women into submission, but the ladies are not budging.  The men come out and display their extreme disapproval of the women’s chastity.

A difficult thing to do during a performance is to be engaged with the story and characters when you are not one of the principle actors. The very entertaining job of Krenn and Corcoran made those side moments most believable.

That brings the ladies to the position of power when the men buckle and submit at the gates of the treasury, and the key holder Lysistrata (Brittnie Knight) see to the men’s agreement to release their aggressiveness and find a peaceful end.

At first glimpse the circus setting may be one that doesn’t seem to be congruent with the very dark side of humanity, war.

But the historical documentation of humans being exploited for the entertainment of onlookers spans centuries.

The wars that span centuries also deprive the human family of their rights to be free from abuse and oppressiveness.

So, the circus has not always been cotton candy and games of chance with a lion tamer and elephant trainer to woo the crowd.

The circus was the strong and powerful exploiting the poor and weak side of the human family.

Matt Germeyer did a fine job with costumes and props that remove the sensual sexuality of the adult content and point it toward the over-the-edge, funny side of the coin.

“Lysistrata” is for mature audiences and continues at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

ROB LOPEZ

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