‘Lysistrata’ a deliciously salacious TRTC production
There can be no doubt about a connection between Eros and the creative spirit after seeing Thunder River Theatre Company’s rollicking adaptation of “Lysistrata” exuberantly celebrate the former and clearly demonstrate the latter.With the opening of its state-of-the-art performance space, TRTC, a repertory company whose innovation and talent would do credit to a big-city troupe, and whose community spirit exemplifies small-town conviviality, trades a nomadic existence for a venue to match the quality of its performances. For the debut production of this inaugural season in the new theatre, the company has wisely chosen a play reflecting its current well-earned celebratory mood and allowing for the originality of presentation that is TRTC’s trademark.Directed and designed by TRTC founder and artistic director Lon Winston, and starring Valerie Haugen, the company’s founding associate artist, “Lysistrata” – Aristophanes’ ancient and freshly uproarious comedy about the women of Greece going on a sex strike until their men stop war – has been adapted by Winston, Haugen and academic dramaturge Heidi Wilson.They have brilliantly succeeded in translating in-jokes from 2,500 years ago into a raunchy contemporary vernacular rife with highly inventive hilarity.The performance begins with a clever prelude in which the cast of four women and four men, who explain that they will be performing over 30 roles, delivers a lively and lascivious history of human sexuality rich in mythological reference, embellished by unabashedly sensuous movements and wildly suggestive gestures. Next comes an insightfully relevant animation on a screen, harbinger of multimedia innovation that TRTC is sure to be developing in its versatile new space.By this time the audience is primed to expect the exceptional, and that is just what it gets from a deliciously salacious production. Haugen portrays Lysistrata with a perfectly calibrated touch, whooping it up in a campy vamp mode while conveying the imagination, energy and charisma of a savvy lady on a serious mission.Kristen Carlson as the earthy Myrrhine, caught between a palpably hot hunger for her husband and her determination to remain on the sex strike, struts around like a luscious cartoon character while Richard Lyon depicts with relish a pompous wartime bureaucrat.The other players also perform to perfect pitch, switching with ease from men in parodies of drag to cumbersome, sanctimonious and horny warriors, while the women sashay back and forth between feisty crones, sexy wives, and also take a turn at playing with gusto outraged and bewildered males. Judy Benson’s creative costuming and props, including delicate mesh masks both stylish and timeless – and a riotously bawdy use of balloons – adroitly enhance the slapstick role-switching romps.This is fun theatre at its finest and can be thoroughly savored at that level, but surely there is no one in the audience not struck by the topical implications of a story of proactive women sacrificing their pleasure until an orchestrated amorous refusal has led the way to peace.Amazingly, this play dating back two-and-half-millennia still seems revolutionary in positing that passionately determined women possess the power to push Eros to the fore and banish war.Judy King is a freelance writer and theater enthusiast from Glenwood Springs.
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