Reviewed by James Karas
Chaucer’s Wife of Bath offers the knight the choice of marrying an ugly hag who will be a loyal and faithful wife or a beautiful woman who may not hold fidelity in high regard. The production of Lysistrata by Nancy Athan-Mylonas with The Greek Community of Toronto’s Nefeli Theatre manages to be beautiful, blatantly unfaithful and yet quite loyal to Aristophanes.
Lysistrata was written in 412 B.C. during the Peloponnesian War and it has the virtues of being the ultimate anti-war play and a wild, ribald comedy. Old Comedy was not afraid of dirty jokes, phalluses being flung all over the place and riotous laughter. The Nefeli Theatre has far too many youngsters and the Greek community may simply not be ready for that type of humour and this Lysistrata showed considerable restraint in that regard.
Lysistrata, of course, tells the story of the women of Athens and Sparta going on a sexual strike in order to force their men to stop a senseless war that was destroying Greek civilization. The play was written during the war and if there are any other instances of that happening without the author being thrown in jail as a traitor, I am not aware of them.
Athan-Mylonas keeps the essential part of the story and adds in her typical style modern music and dances. We know that ancient drama had music and dancing and we can assume, with no evidence, that it was vintage late fifth century compositions. Athan-Mylonas uses vintage modern music and dancing that fit the play.
Lysistrata, a lithe and statuesque Varvara Papadopoulou, dressed in dramatic red, convinces the women of Athens to say NO to their men’s sexual advances. One need hardly say that the idea is met with some resistance. Some of the women are just as … what is a polite word for “horny” …as the men. The no-nonsense Lambito (Anastasia Zanettoulli), the Spartan delegate agrees to organize the women in her polis to do the same.
The situation is brought to a head by the encounter of Kinisias (Demetre Anastasiou) and his wife Myrinne (Stella Mastrogiannakou, in photo above). He has not had any satisfaction for ages and his needs far exceed his patience or storehouse of common sense. She, teaser that she is, drives him to distraction by displaying the possibilities of conjugal pleasures and pretending to get ready for them. Blanket, sheet, pillow first; sex later. She wants to spread the blanket on the floor and tells Kinisias to get up. “I am up” he tells her desperately. He gets nothing.
Anastasiou and Mastrogiannakou provide a hilarious scene in the most ribald part of the play with plenty of sexual innuendos.
The men, Vasilis Manikas as the Magistrate, Kostas and Yianni Bakas as Chorus Leaders, Dimitri Manikas as the Spartan Herald and Stelios Roides as the Athenian Negotiator stand no chance against the women, including Niki Papadimitriou as Kleoniki Anastasia Botou as Ismenia, in addition to the ones already mentioned..
Athan-Mylonas employs some 75 people on stage. She has a Male Chorus, a Female Chorus and a Dance Theatre that fill the stage and the aisles of the theatre.
There are also three narrators, Georgia Hadjiyianni, Zoe Koutsogeorgopoulos and Anastasia Zanettoullis who give a summary of the plot in English for the linguistically challenged.
Community theatre, Nefeli and Nancy-style means energy, fun and exposure to a classic that most people have only heard of.
Lysistrata by Aristophanes in a version by Nancy-Athan-Mylonas and Lydia Soldevila-Tombros opened on February 8 and will play on February 15 and 16, 2014 at the Hamazkayin Theatre, Armenian Youth Centre, 50 Hallcrwon Place, Toronto. Ontario. www.theatre-nefeli.com or www.greekcommunity.org Telephone (416) 425-2485