Friday, October 25, 2002

Sex, war and politics are at their funniest in the risqué "Lysistrata," about women finding a way to take charge in a world where women call the shots. Myhhrine goes into battle and flirts with her husband, Kinesias, to force him into agreeing to stop the war. Pictured are Kristy Miller and Jonathan Egged.

Sex in the sorority

By John Berger

Back in his bombastic primal-scream days, the late comic Sam Kinison would remind his predominantly male audiences that women always hold the upper hand in relationships because women -- and here we'll rephrase what Kinison said for the sake of this newspaper -- have the ability to deny men access to their, er, sex.

Kinison had it right, but how many of Kinison's fans knew that a Greek playwright had put forth that same theory 2,400 years earlier?

Aristophanes both entertained and shocked Greeks with a bawdy comedy in which a woman named Lysistrata convinced the female population of Greece to "just say no" until the men saw things their way. Greeks weren't shocked so much by the subject matter as by the idea that women actually had the cognitive abilities necessary to come up with such a plan.

"The play lends itself to a variety of interpretations," said UH-Manoa theater director Glenn Cannon recently, referring to his own interpretation that starts its run tonight at Kennedy Theatre. "There have been several productions of 'Lysistrata' throughout the country over the past several months, all of them going in completely different directions ... and ours is going in a different direction, too."

For instance, he said, the setting of the UH production is a current-day frat house, and the women are sorority sisters. The time frame fluctuates between ancient Greece and the present, and the frat house and Athens, though the time and place are less important than the theme.

"That situation is less important than the key thrust of the play, which is women taking matters into their own hands and gaining control in order to get what they want -- and, of course, it's a sex strike," Cannon said. (The script is a modern translation by Kenneth McLeish.)

"(The story) lends itself to a lot of raucousness and sexual innuendo, as well as very clear statements about sexual matters. The dialogue ... has been altered somewhat so it becomes very contemporary ... the way students speak. My feeling is that this is a wonderful play for students here who would not necessarily rush to a traditional Greek theater production but will have a thoroughly enjoyable time with this because it's so accessible and has trappings that are particularly appealing to the student body -- sex being one of them."

Cannon and choreographer Christine Berwin are embellishing the action with an eclectic musical soundtrack and costumes that Cannon described as "revealing but not too nude."

Amy Matson stars in the title role, with Kristy Miller (Myrrhine), Cindy Beth Davis (Kalonike) and Stephanie Kong (Lampito) in the major supporting roles.

"Aristophanes wrote it as a low comedy, and we have pieces of vaudeville in it, pure verbal jokes, a lot of physical jokes ... and lots of pretty girls ... so it works on several levels."

Cannon said "Lysistrata" is well known as a fantasy about women who withhold sex until the men decide to "make love, not war," but that Aristophanes was writing pointed comedy about "purely personal and local politics" in Athens.

"His original writings ... had to do with individual, fraudulent, BS'ing politicians in Athens that he wanted to get at in a derogatory way," Cannon said, and the central male character in "Lysistrata" is based on a political figure of the time.

Cannon said that despite the relevance of "Lysistrata," the purpose of this production is to entertain rather than advance any particular political or social agenda.

"We're just letting the messages come through the comedy. It isn't really vital by any sense to stress it. It's quite apparent."

Cannon admitted to making one significant change in the structure of the play: The commentary that would normally be provided by a chorus has been portioned out to individual actors.

"That works better for me," he said. "Frankly, I hate choruses in Greek plays!"


Where: Kennedy Theatre, UH-Manoa
When: 8 p.m. today and tomorrow with additional performances at 8 p.m. Thursday to Nov. 2, and 2 p.m. Nov. 3
(The Halloween performance will be followed by a party.)
Tickets: $12; $10 for seniors, military, UH faculty and staff; $8 non-UHM students; $3 UHM students with valid fall 2002 photo ID
Call: 956-7655

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