Lysistrata is neither long nor hard

By Nat French

People have been making penis jokes for as long as they’ve been doing just about anything. Aristophanes’s “Lysistrata,” which opens at Macalester this Friday, reminds us that phallic comedy is as old as comedy itself. In “Lysistrata,” women fed up with their men’s war-making declare a sex boycott until peace is reached. The script is bawdy, wild, and full of overlarge members.Farces are not easy to do. If you don’t commit fully to the slap-stick style, a farce falls flat on its face. If you go too far, the audience feels you are acting for yourself, not them. Somehow, you have to find a balance that’s honest, comic, believable, and absurd all at the same time.

The cast of “Lysistrata” meets this challenge with mixed success. At times, the lines are well-timed and well-delivered; at others, the humor is lost along with the actors’ focus.

Director Cheryl Moore Brinkley has done some innovative things with the piece. She sets the Greek comedy in Civil War America, passing the women off as refined yet randy southern belles. The staging is simple and symmetrical, functional but devoid of some of the more flirtatious possibilities offered by Aristophanes. Occasionally it seems like Brinkley has her actors humping the air for no reason; at others, she has them moaning their lines in delightfully orgasmic fashion.

Brinkley’s choice of translation is somewhat cruder than most (and most are still very, very crude), its humor relying less on innuendo than on vulgarity. Missing are some of the play’s subtler entendres, replaced by less nuanced, and less funny, expressions.

Rebecca Morales is a headstrong Lysistrata, projecting strength well-suited to her character. Morales’s vocal work is at times grating; she takes too many misplaced pauses in an attempt to emphasize everything, leading to nothing being actually emphasized. However, as the play goes on and Morales comes more into her element, her force of personality becomes far more noticeable than her diction.

Hector F. Pasqual Alvarez as the Councilor and Alex Galick as Cinesias best understand the physicality of the piece. While both occasionally lose control (I was a bit confused when Galick took instructions from his penis), they are most adept at walking the fine line between well-honed farce and self-indulgent absurdity.

The best moments in the play come from the whole ensemble, especially the women’s chorus led by Morales and Sana-e-zahra Ali-Aamir, who plays Lysistrata’s foreign cohort. The girls build on one another until they quite literally climax, lending just the right energy to the play.

“Lysistrata” touches on all the issues nearest and dearest to the Macalester student body: sex, war, protest, feminism, and giant phallic symbols. While Macalester’s production doesn’t fully capitalize on one of the funniest comedies ever written, it still presents viewers with a two hour barrage of sex jokes and pelvic thrusts. Whether or not that’s enough to make “Lysistrata” enjoyable I leave up to you.