Kudos for The Comedy of Errors in Barracks Square

28 06 2018

by Greg Everett


A Courtesan (Kat Hall) and Antipholus of Ephesus (Dillon Matchett) throw shade in last year’s production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, remounted this year for your merriment under (hopefully) clearer skies in Barracks Square. Photo Credit: Michael Holmes-Lauder

For the quarter of an hour preceding The Comedy of Errors in Barracks Square, it feels as though the sun, which shines unremittingly onto the bleacher seats, will leave the audience with a trucker’s tan by the end of the performance. But as the preamble to the play is underway, wherein the players mime the bustle of the Ephesian streets whilst they take their places in the Barracks, the sunset softens and lends a gentler light to the scene. It’s a very special experience to be able to watch a play in the open air, and moreso when the storyline unfolds in real time, so that the setting sun provides a backdrop to the climax and denouement of the play. (And let it here be said that the special experience is soured a little, not through any fault of the people involved in the production, but by the repeated passing of motorcyclists with unreasonably loud engines revving them to bold new heights of sound pollution.)

Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors—remounted here with most of the same cast by company artistic director Len Falkenstein after an oft-rained-out run a year ago—tells of two sets of twin brothers, the biological and adopted sons of Egeon (John Ball), a Syracusan merchant. At the beginning of the play, Egeon, arrested in Ephesus under an edict arising from the war between Ephesus and Syracuse, explains how his family was separated by shipwreck when the boys were infants, and how one set of mismatched twins survived with him, while the other disappeared along with their mother. Antipholus of Syracuse (Alex Pannier) and his servant/adopted brother Dromio (Dani Brun) grew up pining for their other halves, and left their father to search for them; by coincidence, they are themselves newly arrived in Ephesus. However, none are aware that, separated too from their mother, the other two twins are Antipholus of Ephesus (Dillon Matchett) and his servant/adopted brother Dromio (Lucas Gutierrez-Robert). Hijinks ensue as the business associates and family of the Syracusan twins mistake them for their Ephesian counterparts, and vice versa.

The plot is ludicrous, and if one were to rely on the dialogue alone, much of the comedy would be lost in the effort of understanding just what is going on. In fact, during the opening night performance of the play, while one of the characters is waxing long-windedly to explain how the evening’s events have come about, a woman in the audience turns to her companion and mutters “I don’t get it.”

Fortunately, the plot and the more expositional swaths of dialogue are secondary to the comedy, which comes primarily from the exchanges between the players, their wry deliveries, and their fantastic physical performances. Watching the two sets of twins carry on back and forth, and fight, and tumble around, it becomes apparent that the play is meant to be, in essence, an episode of The Three Stooges, and that’s how it works best. The same woman who didn’t get the exposition bursts forth with laughter whenever someone cracks a joke about his wife, or performs a pratfall.

So kudos to the whole cast for a very smooth performance, and kudos especially to Matchett, Pannier, Gutierrez-Robert, and Brun for bringing their all to this show.

The wardrobe, put together by Denise Richard, Lynn Addleman, and Emma Wilkes, has a distinct 70s flair for the supporting cast, and maintains a satisfying unity across all of the different characters and their styles. And the costumes of the two sets of brothers are genius; they impart flamboyant personal style that demonstrates their identical looks while at the same time adding, particularly in the case of the Dromios, great comedic effect. In fact, it may be their Moe Howard hairstyles that invite the strongest comparisons to the Three Stooges.

Bard in the Barrack’s production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors (at Barracks Square) runs in rep with Shakespeare’s Cymbeline (at O’Dell Park) June 22-July 8, 2018, both directed be Len Falkenstein.


Antipholus of Ephesus (Dillon Matchett) is arrested smoothly and without incident by competent officers (Telina Debly and Lucas Taply) while the entirely unimplicated, and endlessly perceptive, townsfolk (l.-r. Amelia Hay, Tilly Jackson, Scott Harris, and Kat Hall) look on in reverence while the letter and spirit of the Ephesian laws are wholly observed in last year’s production of Shakespeare’s gripping slice of life drama The Comedy of Errors, remounted this summer in Barracks Square for your approval. Photo Credit: Michael Holmes Lauder


TNB’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast an astonishing spectacle for an ‘incel’ age

14 05 2018

by Greg Everett


The jilted Beast (Tyler Seymor) scowls in his castle while flanked by his tormented and increasingly objectified staff (l.-r.) Cogsworth (Drake Ferris) and Lumière (Abigaile Crispo) in the province’s third (at least) youth production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in two years. Photo credit: André Reinders

“Theatre New Brunswick Theatre School, endowed by the Stephen Graham Bird Trust, is dedicated to providing outstanding theatre training that educates and awakens the imaginations of young New Brunswickers.” This, the opening statement from TNBTS’s website, is as succinct and perfect a description as could be asked for. And this year’s production of Alen Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Linda Woolverton’s Disney‘s Beauty and the Beast is the culmination of seven months of training, education, and imagination for the students in the cast.

A French fairy tale become Jean Cocteau fantasy become Walt Disney classic, Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a handsome, but spoiled and nasty, Prince who suffers a curse at the hands of an enchantress. As a result, he is transformed into an ugly and fearsome Beast (Tyler Seymour), and all of the inhabitants of his castle slowly turned into inanimate objects. When Maurice (Dustyn Forbes), an eccentric inventor, stumbles upon the enchanted castle, the Beast holds him captive until Belle (Megan Murphy), his beautiful daughter, arrives and offers to take her father’s place. Lumière (Abigail Crispo), Cogsworth (Drake Ferris), Mrs. Potts (Rose Messenger), and the rest of the Beast’s attendants seize the opportunity to coach him in the ways of romance, as it is revealed that true love can break the curse that has transformed them all.

First and foremost it should be said that the students should be proud of their performances, which are strong all around and provide a great evening’s entertainment. A special round of applause for Abigail Crispo who positively shines as Lumière, all the while holding her arms out straight; and for Dustyn Forbes, charming as Maurice but demonstrating a fantastic talent for dance as the Corkscrew. And a separate peal of recognition for Torri Macintosh and Rachel Tapley who, as the Gargoyles, perform an impressive tandem cartwheel across the stage.

As for the people in the wings, they should pride themselves as well on the quality of the production and the platform they have provided for the students to perform. Kudos to Tania Breen for directing a cast of forty-two theatre students in nearly a hundred different roles and for bringing to the stage a greatly enjoyable production replete with her trademark touches of humour. Mike Johnston’s work as Set and Projection Designer is brimming with magic and wonder. The choreography of Courtney Arsenault makes the stage burst with energy and motion, particularly in the big “Be Our Guest” number in which the utensils and cutlery are like a river rushing from one side of the stage to the other. As always, Sherry Kinnear’s costume design is nothing short of stellar.

However, it is impossible to write about or watch Disney’s Beauty and the Beast without engaging on some level with its politics. Even operating under all the requisite suspensions of belief (it’s based on a fairy tale, it’s a fantasy world, it’s a children’s movie, etc. etc.) there are a lot of problematic ideas in the script outside of the self-apparent and widely discussed overtones of Stockholm Syndrome. Mrs. Potts tells Belle that “If anyone can make the most of living here it’s you.” Belle’s defining qualities, her strong will and her independence, are characterized as negative except at this moment, when Mrs. Potts suggests that they make Belle ideally equipped to live a repressed life as the captive of a Beast. And later on, upon Belle’s departure, the Beast laments “If I can’t love her, then let the world be done with me.” But at the bottom of it all, Belle is just the first woman who happened to be near enough for the Beast to interact with, and then hold against her will. The entire book is brimming with thinly veiled notions about gender roles, obligatory reciprocity, and so on.

The list is as long as the number of productions this spectacle continues to receive….

Theatre New Brunswick’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast ran at the Fredericton Playhouse April 26-28, 2018.


Belle (Megan Murphy) is ridiculed at the well too many times by the townsfolk for reading books about the wide world, instead of being a normal “Silly Girl” who fawns over the town pump Gaston in TNB Senior Musical Theatre’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Photo Credit: André Reinders

Theatre UNB’s A Patriot for Me brings Osborne’s mid-century study of Austro-Hungarian homophobia in the military to Memorial Hall

8 04 2018

by Greg Everett


(l.-r.)  August Siczynski (Austin Taylor) duels with Ludwig Max von Kupfer (Julian Devine) as Alfred Redl (Liam Browne, second from left at back) looks on with his fellow officers in John Osborne’s A Patriot for Me. Fight Direction by Jean-Michel Cliche. Photo Credit: Jesse Roy

The depiction of homosexuality in John Osborne’s A Patriot for Me was deemed so scandalous in 1965 that the lord chamberlain refused to license it, leading to the Royal Court Theatre changing from a public theatre to a private members’ club in order to give the play its premiere.

By today’s standards, far more scandalous is the prejudice and persecution faced by men like Alfred Redl, even though same-sex relationships were an open secret throughout the military, nobility, and aristocracy. Works like Osborne’s are a reminder of the violence faced by marginalized communities past and present. And while federal agencies no longer employ ‘fruit machines’ and similar methods to cull homosexuality from their ranks, Theatre UNB’s production of A Patriot for Me, directed by Len Falkenstein, comes close on the heels of a presidential ban on transgender Americans serving in any branch of the military.

Alfred Redl (Liam Browne) is an up-and-coming young officer in the Austro-Hungarian military. Despite an unimpressive upbringing, clandestine Jewish ancestry, some irregular debts, and his involvement in a duel that left a fellow student dead, he is able to distinguish himself at school and embark upon an exceptionally successful career with the intelligence service. In the words of his mentor, Lt. Col. von Mohl (William MacKnight), the army is “about recognizing the value of another man and cherishing it.” The phrase is fateful for Redl twice over, both in regards to his homosexual relationships, and to his value as a target for blackmail, which is recognized early on in his life by Russian Intelligence chief Colonel Oblensky (Kyle Bech). It is an envelope, inscribed with the name of Redl’s lover, with which Oblensky first confronts him, and in the end, it is another envelope, containing payments and orders for Russian operatives, that incriminates him before von Mohl. This is just one of the many grim mirrorings in the doomed life of Alfred Redl.

While Osborne’s script is certainly topical, it may be most politely described as opulent. The far ranging settings, extended depictions of social gatherings, and repetitive summations of Alfred Redl’s military and academic careers, make the narrative overly complex and fatty. On opening night at Memorial Hall, performance time stretches close to three and a half hours. It feels as if the audience is being subjected to an unabridged version of a story better served through brevity. For instance, the complex Judge Advocate Jaroslaw Kunz (Hirad Hajilou) is first to escort the Russian agent Sofia Delyanoff (Kyra Lake), is present at the Baron Von Epp’s (Tyson Cann) flamboyant Drag Queen costume ball (he is known for his homosexual liaisons), and presides over Redl’s arrest and sentence. However, his motivations and feelings are lost in a deluge of gossip and banter.

Despite the script’s opulence, two parts of Theatre UNB’s production really stand out: the set design and the selection of music. Mike Johnston’s set is comprised of three wood-framed screens upon which are projected the backgrounds and effects for each scene. Each frame is a different, irregular shape (two quadrilaterals and a tetragon) and is outfitted with a riser, adding much flavour and dynamism to the performance space. The music is sometimes classical, sometimes folkish, always convincingly Austro-Hungarian, and is very skillfully used to foreshadow and accompany the narrative of the play.

The production is brimming with unintentional comedy that provides a welcome break to some of Osborne’s tediousness. The repeated failure of military sashes on opening night brings comic relief to long scenes as they slip from shoulders and drop to trail from the wearers’ shoes. During scene changes into Redl’s quarters, the demand placed on Liam Browne by his ubiquitous entrances, exits, and costume changes often leave Redl’s multitudinous lovers waiting semi-nude in the darkness for him to rush on stage, disrobe, and jump into bed. This is not to fault the cast or their combined efforts to bring this production to fruition; it is, if anything, a thank you to them for bringing life to a script that was greatly demanding and perhaps a bit self-aggrandizing.

Theatre UNB’s first-year production of John Osborne’s A Patriot for Me ran April 4-7, 2018 at UNB’s Memorial Hall.

Urine for a pissing contest: Corporate pissants, party pooping revolutionaries, and STU Musical Theatre

25 02 2018

by Greg Everett


Toilet Assistant Bobby Strong (Lucas Tapley) leads the revopootion—or is that upeeheaval?—in STU Musical Theatre’s production of Urinetown.

Drums riff and instruments trill as we enter the theatre for STU Musical Theatre’s production of Urinetown. There are dirty, disheveled people on stage and looming in the entrances. As spectators continue to trickle in, so do these shabby deplorables taking positions on the floor and on the stairs that frame a rundown gated entrance and catwalk. It is difficult to tell whether the play has begun, where the line is between action and audience.

This is in keeping with “the Brechtian theatrical style that inspired Urinetown writers Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman,” explains director Tania Breen. The play is full of metafictional references and fourth wall breaks.

In Urinetown‘s dystopian reality, pollution and wastefulness have led to a water shortage; private toilets are outlawed, public toilets are privatized; and those who can’t front the dough to go are taken on a trip to Urinetown, a mysterious prison colony beyond the horizon. Caldwell B. Cladwell (Ben Smith) of the Urine Good Company, with the aid of governmental regulation, has established himself as the sole controlling interest in the toilet industry, employing operators like Penelope Pennywise (Georgia MacNaughton) to collect a steep fee from people in need of a pee. But when Toilet Assistant Bobby Strong (Lucas Tapley) watches his father carted off to Urinetown, he begins to question the justice of the status quo. And with the aid of Cladwell’s daughter Hope (Sydney Hallett) he leads a popular revolution against the tyranny of the toilet industry.

Although written in the mid-90s, Urinetown is, if anything, more relevant now than ever: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was opened to oil drilling at the end of 2017 and the FCC’s vote to repeal Net Neutrality just became official. Those are just two major examples from the past three months that are part of a sweeping trend toward the expansion of corporate interests disregarding the well-being and rights of the individual and the world at large. On the other side of the coin, Kotis and Hoffman also examine the dangers of unbound idealism and anarchic socialism, which are also increasingly relevant, if less tangibly so.

However, in spite of its lofty Brechtian ideals and its social relevance, Urinetown falls considerably short in terms of message and effect. It relies on its strengths as a comedy to gloss over its unnuanced and negative approach to the revolution, whose members go from meek and oppressed to unstable and violent almost as soon as they decide to resist and seize power. Conversely, the murders committed by the corporation are grim and weighty while the onstage slaughter of politicians, executives, and their relatively innocent assistants is rushed and lackadaisical. And the ending comes across as Ayn Rand-ish: the moral appears to be that Cladwell and the UGC are necessary evils that must be bargained with.

There is a hint of real complexity at the end of the first act when through free and unregulated usage the public toilet breaks down and cannot be fixed, presumably because the people with the funding and skill set have been overthrown. But this is a loose end that remains untied as the revolution moves from the street to the underground. In terms of politics, the show is ultimately weak.

But in terms of performance, STU Musical Theatre’s production is impeccable, aside from some of the staging. From a side-seat in the thrust-configured Black Box, much of the blocking feels awkward and it’s possible to see behind the wall of Public Amenity No. 9, peeking at setups and entrances that are meant to be unobserved. Otherwise, the choreography of Courtney Arsenault is delightful. The costuming and makeup is functional and fun. Breen makes excellent use of the ensemble to create frantic action and great comedy.

And kudos to Miguel Roy and Georgia MacNaughton, as Officer Lockstock and Penelope Pennywise respectively, for delivering fantastic performances.

Produced by STU Musical Theatre, Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman’s Urinetown ran February 21-25, 2018 in STU’s Black Box Theatre.

Theatre UNB’s chilling Bone Cage traps Maritime life at the precipice of brutal poverty and crushed hope

24 02 2018

by Greg Everett


Jamie (Alex Pannier) holds Kevin (Devin Rockwell) over the rail of the town’s bridge in Catherine Banks’s chilling Governor General Award-winning Maritime drama Bone Cage. Photo Credit: Mike Johnston

Catherine Banks’ Bone Cage is a powerful and difficult play. The narrative it weaves is very much a story of the Maritimes, one that feels familiar and predestined but never cliché or overwrought. Theatre UNB’s production deals lovingly with Banks’ script, demonstrating a respect for the source material that transcends the professional and suggests something personal. Director Len Falkenstein calls Banks’s depiction of rural Nova Scotia “brutally clear-eyed, yet sympathetic,” and while audiences will certainly walk away with a sense of sympathy, it is a challenge to walk away with anything but misty eyes.

Jamie (Alex Pannier) and his sister Chicky (Sophie Tremblay-Pitre) live with their father Clarence (John Ball) in the very archetype of a broken, impoverished home in rural Nova Scotia. Soon to be married to Krista (Kate Aldacosta), a high school senior preparing for graduation, Jamie faces serious decisions about commitment and their future together. At the same time, he struggles with guilt and depression associated with his job clear-cutting trees. In the plays opening moments he holds and laments a dead bird, ultimately casting it into the water from the heights of a bridge where he perches to numb the pain with drink. The bridge and the river become, at one point or another, the focal point for the painful baggage that Chicky and Clarence carry in their own right; Chicky’s adulterous relationship with its roots in statutory rape; and Clarence’s obsession with cloning, reanimating, or otherwise reclaiming the young son he lost to a brain tumour. Weighed down by their pasts, and worn down by the brutal realities of rural poverty, all of the plays characters must navigate the brutal bigotry and unrelenting bleakness of the place they are forced to call home.

The most striking, and perhaps the most effective, element of TUNB’s production is the set design. Clarence’s house occupies the stage, and extending out in front of it in a sort of peninsula is the river and the path, culminating in the bridge; the audience is seated parallel to the river, on either side. It lends to the action a very real sense of distance and space, and allows for a more rapid pace than would be possible with set changes. This also lends a more pronounced sense of height and danger to the bridge as it juts up out of, and looms over, the audience, rather than extending above the stage.

The entire cast deserves to be commended for their performances. There are standout moments: Chicky’s crushing retellings of her romantic history and her current realities; Clarence’s desperate and frantic rants about cloning technology and ‘good eggs’; Jamie’s bridge monologues, and most notably the hair-raising howling as he stands on the edge. But all in all, the cast as an ensemble shows an investment in their characters and the world in which they live that translates into excellent performances all around.

There is a moment at the conclusion of a play wherein the audience is not quite sure whether the show has actually finished. In the case of this production, there is a moment after the cast has taken their bow, wherein the audience is not quite sure whether they are ready to leave. The ending of Banks’s play is jarring, and artfully handled by Falkenstein and his cast. It leaves the audience with a genuine need to sit and process, to consider what they have seen and what it has meant. And there are few compliments greater than that.

Catherine Banks’s Bone Cage, produced by Theatre UNB, ran January 31-February 3, 2018 at UNB’s Memorial Hall.

Theatre St. Thomas answers “What’s Next?” with Fredericton’s emerging playwriting and directing talent

24 02 2018

by Greg Everett

Theatre St. Thomas’s What’s Next presents an evening of theatre that is both an answer to and an interrogation of that very question? What’s next for Fredericton’s theatre community as a new generation of playwrights, directors, and actors emerges onto the scene? What does that new generation learn about itself as it asks, “what’s next?”

“This has been a giant project,” writes producer Robbie Lynn about TST’s new play festival conjured from last summer’s play submissions from STU students and recent alumni. “[E]very single person that has worked on it has been integral to its success… No matter what comes next, we have to face our obstacles together.”


Ferrando (Dylan Grant) prays for the lives of his thieving compadres Antonello (Jason McIntyre) and Raffiano (Lucas Guitérrez-Robert) as they ‘return’ Saint Nicholas’s relics in Michael Pallotto’s Thieves of Paradise, directed by Laura-Beth Bird. Lighting design: Chris Saad. Costumes: Emma Wilkes. Photo Credit: André Reinders

In Thieves of Paradise, written by Michael Pallotto and directed by Laura-Beth Bird, Ferrando (Dylan Grant) receives a dream vision which he interprets as a holy command to retrieve the remains of a Christian saint from Muslim Turkey. On this pretence he recruits his cousin Raffiano (Lucas Gutiérrez-Robert) and the thief Antonello (Jason McIntyre), but the divine nature of their quest is called into question as events take turn after turn for the worse. From the first moments, the technical elements and direction hook the audience into a world that feels almost magical—the set design and lighting are gorgeous, the sound effects are nothing shy of perfect. The play is well acted and the script is interesting, but not without its problems: the narrative slows to a snail’s pace during the thieves’ argument at the shore, which feels out of sync with the rest of the pacing. And while Pallotto’s writing is diligent in questioning and undermining the justification for their actions, ultimately the thieves are vindicated in an ending that lacks any hint of doubt or irony.



‘Dutch (Telina Debly) tells Sonny Elmore (Madigan Downs) how it’s going to go down in their version of the shell game (with poisoned tea) in Louis Anthony Bryan’s I Love this City, directed by Esther Soucoup. Photo Credit: André Reinders

Louis Anthony Bryan’s I Love This City, directed by Esther Soucoup, follows former champion quiz-kid and current all-time loser Sonny Elmore (Madigan Downs) as he is swept into the world of Private Eye Ambrose Holiday (Emma Dufour) through the machinations of his best friend and narrator Jolene Espin (Grace Victor). Bryan’s script is very obviously meant for the screen and, despite Soucoup’s best efforts, doesn’t wholly transfer to stage. For instance, there are musical vignettes and an overture that feel crafted for camera angles. That said, this play is incredible. If anything, the writing is too witty at times, as the laughter from one joke causes another to be lost, but that’s a good problem to have. Downs is electric and larger-than-life; Victor is sly and subdued, maybe a little low-key to start, but pure charisma once things get rolling. As the story plays out to its conclusion, pieces fall into place that make one want to shout out as the realizations strike. Absolutely fantastic.


The Nuclear Preparation Guide or N.P.G. (Naomi McGowen) tells America how to respond to a nuclear attack by baking pie in Thomas MacDougall’s And Above All, directed by Samuel Crowell. Costume Design: Emma Wilkes. Set Painting: Samuel Crowell. Photo Credit: André Reinders

And Above All, written by Thomas MacDougall and directed by Samuel Crowell, brings together a rag-tag band of citizens to face the cold reality of nuclear war within the warm, welcoming confines of their friendly neighborhood corner store. Rookie clerk Melly (Brenna Gauthier) is forced to take charge of the situation with the aid of an archaic copy of the Nuclear Preparation Guide (narrated and embodied by Naomi McGowan). As director, Crowell makes excellent use of the Black Box’s entrances and exits to get astounding comedic mileage out of McGowan’s performance, which was itself extraordinary. She and Miguel Roy, who portrays RCMP accountant Jack Flannigan, run away with the show, and the audience is happy to go along for the ride. MacDougall’s writing is raucous and clever; there is, however, one moment of saccharine wholesomeness toward the play’s finale that feels incongruous to no particular end. Overall, the play is a hilarious and satisfactory conclusion to a stellar night of theatre.

Theatre St. Thomas’s What’s Next? theatre festival ran January 31-February 3, 2018 in STU’s Black Box Theatre.

STEEDS’s “raunchy” Lysistrata gets off by “goofing off”

22 01 2018

Cinesias (Brennan Garnett) and Myrrhine (Brianne Durant) flirt while their young Child (Silas McDonald) sits stoically mortified in the St. Thomas Early English Drama Society’s production of Aristophanes’ Ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata! Photo Credit: Seamus Lee Hayes Artworks, for STEEDS

by Greg Everett

Upon being handed the playbill for the St. Thomas Early English Drama Society’s production of Lysistrata!, one might rightfully ponder the connection between the play, written by Aristophanes of Athens around 411 BCE, and Early English Drama. And disappointingly, the answer is not to be found amongst the five pages of cast bios, nor in the full page director’s note. In fact, there is no connection between Lysistrata! and Early English Drama, and one must therefore go on to ask why? Why this play? Why the aesthetic choices? Why the drawn out dance numbers? Maybe that question is answered most succinctly by Assistant Director Thomas MacDougall during the preamble to the play in which he described STEEDS as, in paraphrase, “a bunch of kids goofing off.”

Lysistrata!’s title character is a distinguished woman among the elite of a nation perpetually at war with its neighbour. Exasperated with the extended, ultimately meaningless conflict and the constant absence of her country’s menfolk, she hatches a plan to bring the war to an end: if the women of both nations withhold their sexual favors while the men come home on leave, the men will eventually give into their demands of peace. And although the women prove just as sexually frustrated as the men, and Lysistrata eventually realizes that their actions constitute a war of the sexes that is as ridiculous as the war of nations, in the end, ambassadors of both countries sign a peace treaty, and everyone is finally given free license to fuck.

This STEEDS production is, in some cases, very well performed. Hannah Blizzard as Lysistrata is perky and fun, and seems the natural leader among her cohort of horny women. Gabby Fournier does a great job carrying the cool confidence and entertaining accent of Lampito. And Peter Boyce is the perfect fit for the Commissioner of Public Safety. The costuming, hair, and makeup are fantastic for a low-budget production, for which Jarrod Dunlop and Bella Baldin should be commended.

However, the general impression one gets of this production is that it is self-serving and juvenile. The playbill has pages of biographies (that, in many cases, read like high school yearbook entries, with self-referential in-jokes and absurdities), but makes no mention of the playwright or the pedigree of the script. The Director’s Note summarizes his own relationship with STEEDS without talking about the adaptation or the process of bringing the play to life. Many of the “raunchy” jokes and dance numbers seem unabashedly more fun to perform than to watch.

The adaptation itself is all over the place. Director Liam Browne has draped Lysistrata! in the trappings of mid-war/post-war America, but maintains anachronisms like the sacred helmet of Athena. Not that anachronisms are inherently bad, but this feels at best purposeless and at worst unintentional. Similarly, Cinesias (Brennan Garnett) and the Ambassador (John Matheson) have three-foot foam erections for the finale of the play, and yet the script still relies on jokes about mistaking a boner for a concealed weapon. And the much harped-upon dance numbers are perhaps a hallmark of other productions of Lysistrata!, but here they feel jarring, under-committed, antiquatedly sexualized, and wholly unearned.

Browne, in his part of the preamble to the play, explains that the benefit of student run theatre is “you can pick a play that’s a bit ridiculous, raunchy, and a little inappropriate.” But perhaps it takes a bit of experience and wisdom to recognize that when a script starts out ridiculous and raunchy, you don’t need to try so hard to make it inappropriate. And perhaps it takes that bit of experience and wisdom to point out that the St. Thomas Early English Drama Society should at the very least maintain a connection between the works being performed and Early English Drama.

STEEDS’s adaptation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata! ran January 19-20, 2018 in STU’s Ted Daigle Auditorium.

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