By LIBBY MOTIKA
Circling the News Contributor
Willkommen back! Leave your troubles here! No Covid here, life is beautiful, exhorts the Master of Ceremonies, a la “Cabaret,” on the opening night of the Getty Villa’s outdoor theater.
The audience got it, and they were ready to do just that. After 18 months of no live drama, the Classical theater program was back with “Lizastrata,” the 15th annual outdoor production in the Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater.
Directed and adapted by the Troubadour Theater Company’s artistic director Matt Walker, “Lizastrata” is the retelling of Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata,” set to Liza Minnelli’s greatest hits. It promised a bawdy, poke-in-the-eye absurdity, combining Commedia dell’arte foolish old men, officers full of false bravado and fast-paced witty, raunchy jokes—especially directed to the Palisades audience.
The through line underneath this hilarious pageant is Aristophanes’ 4th century comic account of one woman’s extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War.
Lysistrata (Lizastrata) seeks to convince the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands as a means of forcing the men to negotiate a peace. She has convened a meeting of women from various city-states in Greece and, with support from the Spartan Lampito, she explains her plan.
The women are dubious and reluctant at first, but the deal is sealed with a long and solemn oath around a “bottle of Napa Cab,” and the women agree to renounce all sexual pleasures, including various specifically mentioned sexual positions.
“If we don’t give a piece, maybe we’ll make peace!”
At the same time, another part of Lizastrata’s plan (a precautionary measure) comes to fruition as the old women of Athens seize control of the nearby Acropolis, which holds the state treasury, without which the men cannot long continue to fund their war. The word of revolt spreads and the other women retreat behind the barred gates of the Acropolis to await the men’s response.
As to be expected, in time, the women begin to weaken as the men plead, employing antics and song.
Even when the other women waver in their resolution, Lizastrata, a regal Cloie Wyatt Taylor, remains strong and committed. She is smarter, wittier and generally adopts a more serious tone than the other women. For these reasons, by the end of the play, she has demonstrated her power over men; even the respected leaders of Greece submit to her arguments.
Cloaked in humor, the undercurrent of the play is its dead-on contemporary relevance, as we exit the 20-year war in Afghanistan, bequeathing the painful detritus that bombs always leave behind. Perhaps we should listen to Aristophanes and include women when decisions about war are discussed, but rarely when the final decision is made.
The actors, all members of the Troubies, sing and shuffle to the adapted Liza Minnelli songbook while decked out in an assortment of lavishly scant but extravagant costumes–sequins, glitter and, not to be missed, gigantic anatomical assets!
The humor is highly topical, and director Walker relies on the audience to be familiar with myriad local personalities, places and issues. As well as the slapstick humor and the raucous and risqué double-entendres, many of the jokes derive from the audience’s knowledge of specific neighborhoods and popular culture.
The Troubadour Theater Company is a Los Angeles-based ensemble of actors, musicians and comedians that has been performing for audiences throughout Southern California and beyond since 1965. The company has collaborated with the Getty on several occasions, including most recently the virtual theatre presentation on YouTube of the “The ODDyssey,” a whimsical retelling of Odysseus’s adventure.
“Lizastrata” continues Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through October 2 at 8 p.m. For tickets, visit: getty.edu/LIZA or call: 310-440-7300.