Review: Lysistrata by The Baron's Men
by David Glen Robinson
Aristophane’s Lysistrata is the world’s first anti-war play, and it is not produced often enough in the modern world for us to learn its lessons. It is also a play about love, with a lot of kissing, hugging, nuzzling, and feeding each other grapes. This is somewhat ccounter to its theme, but, eh, the play has its complexities. The Baron’s Men give it a lusty go at Richard Garriott’s The Curtain Theatre in far west Austin. The venue is a recreation of an Elizabethan theatre.
The play won fame for its premise of women withholding their favors from men until men end a war. What war? The Peloponnesian War of the fifth century B.C, the one that violently undid Hellenic civilization, damaging it beyond repair and ending its golden age. Lysistrata seems to be Aristophanes’ absurdist cri de coeur against the madness. It is also filled with lush classical poetry on feasting, plants, oaths, wine, heraldry, lust, love, love, love, and gods, gods, gods. Also thoroughly enjoyable are at least two textual digs at Euripides, one of Aristophanes’ playwriting rivals.
The greatest strength of the production is the choral recital in unison of Aristophanes’ poetry, most powerfully when groups of men traded lines with groups of withholding women. Call and response entered the picture as well as other combinations in forming group dialogues. These were not technically classical choruses because of their fuller incorporation into the action of the play; typically, the chorus stood aside, singing and orating commentary on the action stage center. Classicists have examined for decades Aristophanes’ innovative use of the chorus in this and the few other extant ancient plays. The Baron’s Men gave us a great example of the classical chorus and its innovations.
Lysistrata is also a notable costume romp. The cast was huge, and some characters require two costumes. And all of the costumes are in classical Greek style. In this two-thousand-year shift back in time from their customary Elizabethan creations the Baron’s Men’s Master Costumers Dawn Allee and Pam Martin did very impressive work.
The cast carried out their duties with skill, none more so than Leigh Hegedus as the title character. Christina Peppas performed Calonice laughingly and well and upheld the bawdy spirit of the play. Chris Casey as the Magistrate and Tyler Haggard as Cinesias led the ensemble of suffering and frustrated men. The men’s ensemble all wore erectable phalluses beneath their costume skirts (classical Greek phalluses were leather and worn outside the costume), and the bawdiness reached a climax, so to speak, with simultaneous manual penis play between the male and female ensembles.
This was altogether a worthwhile evening of theatre in a sultry, open air Elizabethan theatre. Theatregoers interested at all in theatre or Shakespeare should treat themselves to the experience of a stage show on a replica Elizabethan stage right here in Austin. The Garriotts are to be thanked for this generous gift to Austin theatre. And Lysistrata is a good choice for a show on the stage.
Parents strongly cautioned.
7400 Coldwater Canyon Dr.
Austin, TX, 78730
July 10-12, 17-19, and 24-26 at 8pm
Please order your tickets online, or they can be purchased at the door: http://thebaronsmen.org/tickets/
Note: The Thursday evening shows have a special price of only $10!
The box is also available, at $125 for a party of four, or $150 for a party of six. All of the wonderful complimentary treats, snacks, and drink will be provided. To request the box or check availability, please email firstname.lastname@example.org