REVIEW: Oakland University’s ‘Lysistrata Remix’ is Rooted in History and More Relevant Than Ever

 

After the season-opening success of Into the Woods, the Oakland University School of Music, Theatre and Dance closes out 2018 with another philosophical tale: the Greek comedy Lysistrata—with a few modern enhancements.

Originally written by the Greek playwright Aristophanes in 411 BCE, Lysistrata takes the war Athens and Sparta are waging with each other and gives it a comedic tenor. The women want peace and their men back home on a full-time basis. Using salacious wit and a bit of enterprise, they decide the best way to accomplish both goals is to deny the men any access to their womanly affections. In other words – they cut the men off cold turkey. Karen Sheridan, a professor of theatre at Oakland University (OU), wonderfully rewrites and directs this production by taking the rich material Aristophanes gifted us nearly 2,500 years ago and making it relevant for today’s audiences. But flipping the script has become a bit of a modus operandi for Sheridan. Not only has she co-founded Oakland’s Classical Theatre Study in Greece summer program but has written new versions of Medea (2011), Antigone (2013), Iphigenia (2015) and Electra (2017). She then directs these projects with OU students on the islands of Hydra, Spetses, and Poros in Greece, before returning for an on-campus run each September.

Lysistrata (Mannon McIntosh) butters up Kinesias (Conor Lovell) to get him to sign a peace treaty in “Lysistrata Remix” at Oakland University’s Varner Studio Theatre, Nov. 15 – Dec. 2.
Photo courtesy JLBoone Photography

Lysistrata Remix finds five contemporary college women – Mannon McIntosh, Erica Kennedy, Elyse Quesada, Stacie Sambrano, and Jordan Taylor –  assigned with the task of reading the original text for their theatre history class. As they struggle to understand how it relates to them, they are suddenly visited by the OG Lysistrata ladies (Krissy Castellese, Caprice Green, Carleigh Ray, and Alaina Whidby) in the form of a sassy Greek chorus. The Chorus explains why it is important for their modern-day counterparts to care about what happens in the past and how it very much has bearing on their futures. Still, the college women hem-and-haw whether it’s right to use their sexuality as a weapon to get what they want. After all, doesn’t that fly in the face of everything women have fought for? Of course, this is exactly why the Chorus wants the women to immerse themselves into the story. As the leader of the Chorus (Krissy Castellese) bluntly asks, “Do you want to pass a test or learn something?” And this is the genius of the play. Sure, it’s a comedy filled with double-entendres designed to make the audience burst out with laughter (and blush quite a bit too), but it’s also a play that isn’t afraid to ask significant questions: What happens when we put ourselves in another’s position instead of remaining a casual bystander? How does that change our perspective? After spending time in ancient Greece, the five women conclude that maybe we don’t need to have all the answers. But we should be willing to ask the questions, have the conversations, and above all, listen to each other. Remixing helps us better understand the present by holding it up to the past. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget what it takes to hold on to what we have; or even the sacrifices made to get the rights we have. Women coming together to make a difference is still a big deal and that concept is always worth exploring no matter what century we’re living in.

Aside from the bawdy and brilliant cast (you’re gonna love the Men’s Chorus), there are all those behind-the-scenes individuals who truly never get enough credit. OU has always made sure to acknowledge the hard work of its students who comprise the production team and I would like to do the same: kudos to Olivia Armstrong (Hair & Makeup Designer), TessaMarie Beard (Lighting Designer), Brenna Birr (Scenic Designer), Elaina Ciccone (Stage Manager), James Holk (Original Music), and Leilas Kaakarni (Sound Designer). While not a student, Gregory Patterson should be recognized for his choreography, especially given the tight quarters of the performance space.

While the audience was sparse when I attended, that has more to do with the fact it was at 10:00 a.m. on a workday rather than with the quality of the performers. This is a play worth seeing. In fact, I believe with a full house, not only will the audience have a great time, but the actors will feed off the energy and take their performance to another level. Fun fact: OU has some of the quirkiest curtain calls around. Get swept up in the fun. Clap along and sing out if you feel like it. And remember, there’s always a chance an audience member will get pulled into some sort of participation. So, my suggestion would be to embrace the spirit of the play and go along.

This play runs 90 minutes with one 12-minute intermission. Because of its mature subject, it is suggested for ages 17 and older. Tickets are $15 general and $8 students and can be purchased at Startickets.com.

Remaining performance dates:
Friday, November 16, 2018 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, November 17, 2018 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, November 18, 2018 at 2 p.m.
Thursday, November 29, 2018 at 8 p.m.
Friday, November 30, 2018 at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.*
Saturday, December 1, 2018 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, December 2, 2018 at 2 p.m.

*Come in your comfy clothes for this late-night pajama party

About Sarah Hovis

Word manipulator, arts appreciator, sports spectator, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at sarah@rochestermedia.com.

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