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LYSISTRATA 2003

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litical satire can be tricky, as Aristophanes learned when in 411 B.C. he wrote the play upon which this adaptation is based. He was constantly in hot water for taking on the governing establishment of his day. However, Aristophanes—and countless playwrights after him—knew how to distance his message by cloaking his comments in stories that sometimes had nothing to do with the message. Thus his Lysistrata continues to resonate after 2,500 years. Ellen Geer, who stars as Lysistrata 2003, has freely adapted the play to suit her own message. She is deeply concerned that conglomerate media outlets presently lull Americans into believing that the current war against Iraq is justified, and she uses Lysistrata's framework to present her own case against it. Unfortunately, Geer's version is a mostly unfocused, rambling polemic that grows wearisome. Her well-intentioned interpolation of true stories told by women who have suffered in war loses power from the weight of its desperation. Whenever the action focuses on an individual character or when this production veers closer to the original, however, the play springs to life. The production accurately reflects the ideals of Will Geer, who established Theatricum Botanicum in the 1950s. All actors, whether spear carriers or stars, are treated with equal deference. Director Heidi Helen Davis manages to keep more than 50 cast members moving in a kaleidoscope of bodies onstage. Several individual performances provide diversion: Willow Geer as the ditsy bimbette, Darbie, has the best moments in the play, and Jeff Wiesen provides her perfect foil in the seduction scene. However, the scene itself seems to come out of nowhere, as Ellen Geer's version is no longer just about withholding sex to create peace. Melora Marshall as Calonice presents a well-rounded portrait of a modern-day Everywoman who is trying to have everything. Alan Blumenfeld, through force of personality, wins the audience over as a semblance of George W. Bush. John Farrell scores good points as a forgotten Korean War veteran, and Earnestine Phillips is fiery as Lampito. This Lysistrata has become a musical, making use of women's and children's choruses. The melodic songs, which are hard to categorize, come from Tom Allard, Peter Alsop, Marshall, and Ellen Geer. The band moves in and out of the action as needed, several musicians taking parts in the play. "Lysistrata 2003," presented by and at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Cyn. Blvd., Topanga. Sat. 8 p.m. July 12-Aug. 9; Sun. 7:30 p.m. July 13-Aug. 10 and Sept. 7-28; Sat. 3 p.m. Aug. 23-30 and Oct. 4-18. $14-22. (310) 455-372

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