Lysistrata's sexual themes put women in charge

On Tuesday night, a select few had the privilege of watching the dress rehearsal of the drama department?s rendition of Aristophanes? Lysistrata. Directed by Jed Allen Harris, the play presented a contemporary interpretation of the fifth?century-?BCE anti-war work.

Lysistrata, the beacon of feminist sentiment and anti-war pride, is played by Susan Goodwillie. She is joined by a cast of fellow scheming women and a cluster of male counterparts. The ?original ?Make Love, Not War? play,? Harris? Lysistrata humorously explores what happens when several Athenian and Spartan women withhold sex from their men in an attempt to get a never-ending war to finally cease. It is while the men are pining for the females? attention that both the comedy and idea of the absurdity of war are born.

?What keeps us apart, and what draws us together?? That question, posed by Science and Humanities Scholars director William Alba, at a symposium on Lysistrata last Sunday, describes the main theme of the play. Yes: The work is sassy. It is audacious. It is filled to the brim with sexual innuendo, hilariously keeping the audience on the edge of its seat.

However, all of these things are secondary to the idea that it exposes the shared humanity between two feuding city-states. But how is this shown? Sex. The women wage a psychological war of their own ? and they do it by taking over the Athenian Acropolis and withholding sexual gratification from the savage local men. Oh, and have no fear, Harris holds nothing back: passion-charged discourse? Check. Props made to look like unmentionables? Definitely check.

If performances are half as good as the dress rehearsal was, audience members are in for a treat. Goodwillie takes control of the stage and works well with the audience, playing off both its silence and laughter. The chorus of men (Andrew Kober, Michael Strassheim, and Tim Wilson) and the chorus of women (Whitton Frank, Marissa Lesch, and Pa?Tina Miller) remind the audience just how talented the students of Carnegie Mellon?s drama school really are.

While simultaneously maintaining eye contact with the audience and providing narrative background singing, the chorus draws the audience into the play in a way that makes everyone feel like they are standing on the steps of the Acropolis. Or maybe it?s the costumes- ? design majors and fashion fanatics campus-- -wide will fawn over the delicately layered chiffon of the ragged dresses.

But the most memorable characteristic of the acting is the difference in the accents between Athenians and Spartans. While this version is based on the Douglass Parker translation of the play, director Harris says that across most translations, the quality of accent ?is used to differentiate between the Athenians and the Spartans.? ?Athenians,? he says, ?thought of themselves as more sophisticated than the Spartans,? and Athens was actually physically located north of Sparta. Therefore, the actors are humorously portrayed as having extremely southern or ?country? accents as Spartans and vivacious New York accents as Athenians.

When asked what he hopes people take away from Lysistrata, all director Jed Harris had to say was, ?I hope they walk away thinking ? thinking with a smile on their face.?

Lysistrata is playing in Purnell?s Chosky Theater from October 11 to 15.