Lysistrata’s War - a tragedy

Lysistrata's War. Who cares if they can sing, Mike? Check this out, they're against war...

Fringe shows are typically driven by a small number of people, with fairly small casts and fairly light technical demands. Some even attempt to make some form of statement. Lysistrata’s War has a cast of twenty-five and kept the venue technician very busy. As for the statement it tries to make, it’s basically a political allegory gone wrong.

In the tradition of the story of King Arthur being adapted into the musical Camelot or Pygmalion into My Fair Lady, you can see what David Hamilton (director and lyricist) and Mark D. Williams (composer and musical director) were going for. What they ended up with was their very own Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The main problem with this adaptation of Aristophanes’ Greek comedy is the statement it tries to make. This may play well in Lake Tahoe, where this show originated, but it just doesn’t work here. The program claims that the play is not specifically about the war in Iraq, but when the Governor does a George W. Bush impression mid-song, it’s hard not to think otherwise. When you see pictures of Uncle Sam and a bald eagle flash across a large screen during Lysistrata’s solo “Why Must This Go On - I am Athenian”, it’s hard not to laugh and wonder if she doesn’t mean to sing “I am American.”

The technical demands of this show also cause some major problems. The cast really needed to be miked and they also needed monitors to allow them to keep in time with the musical score. In addition, the score is too loud and overpowers the cast. With numerous shows at the same venue, it’s hard to blame the technician for this; there’s very little tech time as it is and with a show this demanding, it’s going to be very difficult to get it right before the run ends.

The best part about a musical is the music itself; it’s why they are so popular. Lysistrata’s War follows the tried and true method of reprisals and dueling songs but the music is weak and clichéd. In addition, it is so heavily computer-synthesized that it becomes distracting and comes off as amateurish. It doesn’t help that some of the cast cannot sing very well, with the strongest singer being Lysistrata (Sharon Kerrigan). The lyrics were repetitive and seemed forced. I don’t know how many times I heard the words “stop” and “top” bundled together into a rhyming couplet.

The play runs almost 90 minutes but it feels longer. They go back and forth between the men and women in different settings, all the while we hear the shuffling of the set pieces and the jingling of the costumes. There were some funny moments that quickly got buried with some not-supposed-to-be-funny-but-funny moments. As the play went on, you could clearly hear some snickering and muffled laughter from the audience. Not good if you’re trying to make a statement.

By the end, I was hoping I’d hear another “top-stop” rhyme to close the show. Instead, Jesus came on the stage, yelled something and stabbed Lysistrata. Then the lights went out.

Lysistrata’s War; presented by Lake Tahoe Community College. Part of the 2008 Victoria Fringe Festival. Remaining shows at Venue 2 (The Metro Studio) on the following dates: Sun 24 9:30 • Thu 28 6:00 • Sat 30 10:30 • Sun 31 1:00. For more information join the crowd and shuffle over here.

By Mike Vardy