Stage: Wednesday, March 20, 2003
Lysistrata, Please!
Thru April 13 at Jubilee Theatre, 506 Main St, FW. $16-25. 817-338-4411.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Give Peace a Dance

Lysistrata, Please! isn’t Jubilee’s best, but it’s still worth a look.

By MATTHEW SMITH

Jubilee Theatre recently staged Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet. Great works both, but so over-familiar by now as to be about as interesting as I Love Lucy reruns. Against all odds, the company pulled off the nearly impossible — both felt daisy-fresh. Hot off those twin triumphs, Jubilee now reaches even further back in time to tackle Greek drama.

On paper, this seems an ill fit. Greek plays conjure images of fatal flaws and women killing babies while sons sleep with mothers and sisters get the axe for burying their brothers. Jubilee productions, on the other hand, usually (though not always) tend to run happy-go-lucky.

Rest easy. The happy-go-lucky Lysistrata, Please! fits right into Jubilee’s favored style. This play is an anti-war comedy parading as feminist manifesto that works well enough to recommend. It’s not the best thing Jubilee’s ever done, but we need to remember that even Jubilee’s B-grade material is worthwhile.

For those who forgot high school English class, the plot is fairly simple. And, since there’s no surprise ending, I’m not really giving anything away by mentioning it here. The city-states of Greece are locked in endless battle. The women, lonely and tired of losing their men to war, take charge.

To that end, Lysistrata (played by Sheran Goodspeed-Keyton) urges all sisters to refuse sexual favors until the men come around and agree to stop fighting. Grudgingly, the ladies agree and take an oath (“I will refuse all erections in my direction”). And then the shutdown begins. The men, well, how do you think they take it? Tension and frustration build in both camps until peace is declared; happy couples feverishly resume pup-dogging from coast to coast.

Though a drama originally, Lysistrata is, in Jubilee’s hands, a quirky musical. This works well for one primary reason: music. It’s always a Jubilee strong point. Even when this play, a rather one-joke affair, begins growing tiresome, there’s Jubilee’s great brand of music to keep things humming along. (Which is not to say that if Jubilee had chosen a more serious, less comedic route, Lysistrata would not contain fertile opportunity for comment on war and women’s rights, ’cause it does.)

Jubilee has elected to stress the funny business (nothing wrong with that) and treat the story as secondary to the fine tunes, of which there are many. Song and dance routines fill the brunt of the play, save for random patches of expository dialogue. Most Jubilee musicals run the music genre gamut. This time, a singular sound — that of ’60s soul — dominates.

Since so many of the numbers sound eerily similar to well-known hits, guessing which chart each Jubilee iteration recalls is a fun little game to play. The showstopper is “The Showdown,” in which the sexes reword various Motown classics into a musical version of the dozens. The performers cheat a bit by slipping in bits of songs from Atlantic Records artists and Jimi Hendrix, but the number works so well that you probably won’t mind.

Be warned, however, that the material runs a bit bluer than Jubilee’s normal fare. Things never get too crude, but some of the goings-on might prove a bit too racy for family night out. Maybe worried about their play coming off as merely a sex romp, the Jubilee people interject several pointed yet amusing nods to grrl power and, per current events, a few well-placed jabs at Dubya and company.

And yet, things seem slightly off this time out. Not by much (this is splitting hairs between B+ and A- here), but certainly enough to make an impression, especially in comparison to Jubilee’s recent outings. Lysistrata simply lasts too long, and the sexual shenanigans — hilarious initially — start to become repetitive after awhile. “It’s All About Our Love” plays soulful Barry White seduction. Standing alone, it’s a great performance. Given the overall farcical nature of every other selection here, however, such out-of-nowhere earnestness is out of place. Coming, as it does, so near the show’s end, the song also slows the momentum considerably.

Overall, the actors by and large shine. Many Jubilee regulars do their usual bang-up jobs. Deidre Sneed and newcomer Lauren Hubbard are especially vibrant, and Crystal Phillips raises considerable laughs with her corn-shucking, Hee-Haw routine. The band is spot-check tight — as always.

Lysistrata, Please! is hardly a misfire, just a slight misstep. For the music alone, it’s still worth the trip downtown. By the way, Artistic Director Rudy Eastman urged everyone to contact their representatives and oppose arts-funding cuts. So, those who care about live theater should keep this in mind.

Also, recent rumors have Jubilee relocating to the old Caravan of Dreams locale. Eastman said he’s heard the talk, too, but he assured us that the theater will stay put.


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