In 2003, as a form of protest against the American-led military action in Iraq, the anti-war comedy Lysistrata, written in 411 B.C. by Aristophanes, was performed or publicly read by more than 1,000 groups in nearly 60 countries. One participant in the Lysistrata Project was Joanna Bloem, who adapted the Greek classic into the musical revue Lysistrata D.C. The writer-actor revived her one-hour production to coincide with the presidential inauguration, which means, unfortunately, new audiences will experience this embarrassing mess of atonal singing, wooden acting, shoddy direction and sloppy piano accompaniment. It's rare that a performance has no redeeming attributes; this comes close.
Bloem retains the framework of Aristophanes' plot. Women, upset that men continue to wage war, unite to refrain from having sex with them until peace is declared. This version is updated to modern America, where President Shrub is preparing to attack parts of the Muslim world with fancy new bombs. Three plucky woman—Lysistrata (Bloem), Cleo (Allison Barcott), and Sarah (Mary Watson)—plan a sex boycott, as well as a break-in at the Pentagon to disrupt the computer that controls the bombs. The rest of the cast—David Edelstien, Kyle Keller, and Les "eljaye" Jennings—portrays a succession of evil and/or stupid men. Most of the story is told through songs, some co-written by Bloem with Dan Marcus or Sally Klein; others are Marcus solo credits, and one is by Alan O'Day.
The first number, "Sex, Sex, Sex," is sung as the cast awkwardly thrusts and gyrates—Fosse-esque moves choreographed by Michael Menna. Each subsequent song and dance is more ridiculous than the last: from "In My Hydrogen Car" and "My God's Greater Than Your God" to "Male Supremacy." The insipid lyrics are even more painful when delivered by a cast that, except for Watson, cannot carry a tune. If director Devon M. Schwartz has told his actors where to stand or what emotions to convey, they didn't listen. Everyone appears lost and unsure of what to do. The result is that the only funny moments are unintentional.
"Lysistrata, D.C.," presented by and the Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., 2nd Floor, Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 11 pm. Jan. 14-Feb. 5. $10. (323) 828-5824.