Aristophanes’ Greek comedy Lysistrata has been reimagined many times since premiering in 411 B.C. The title character rallies women to end a war between Athens and Sparta by occupying the main bank building and, famously, withholding sex from their husbands until a treaty is reached.
By now, the urge to update the original is almost overdone. But at the play’s Fringe Festival performance Friday at the Church of the Advocate, Ardencie Hall-Karambe’s fledgling Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Collective staged a production, Lysistrata, Cross Your Legs Sister!, that gave the classic work a genuinely fresh feel.
Taylor J. Mitchell’s Lysistrata is spellbinding. She is strong and sensual, protective, and determined — necessary qualities for any actress trying her hand at this role.
Mitchell’s performance also added a new layer to Lysistrata’s profile: soul. It was there in the sultry sway of her hips, which moved the fabric of her floral-print, wide-leg jumpsuit, and in the way her immaculately moisturized Afro glistened in the stage light, reminiscent of Pam Grier in a 1970s Blaxploitation film.
Friday night’s production hewed closely to the original, with the addition of gutsy musical numbers that displayed the strong vocal agility of the cast.
“From the Mountains to the Sea” was chillingly good, featuring lead vocals from Mitchell. Tigrisia (Courtney Lyneé, who also served as one of the show’s musical directors) was a vocal powerhouse in the lead vocals for the opening number “Sex and Money.”
While the play is mostly about the women’s chastity, the men were hilariously memorable.
The Councilor, played by Jason Stewart, provided several laugh-out-loud moments. Stuffed into trousers that were two sizes too small and held up by suspenders, he preened in a costume that was a gag itself.
Later in the show, in a move that could’ve easily veered into the corny, the men used water noodles to represent phalluses. The entire audience laughed.
Sadly, the set and technical production did not match the talent of the cast.
The actors wore headsets that had microphones attached, but with the shoddy audio production, the mics became more of a distraction than an enhancement.
The stage lighting was sufficient but could not save the unadorned set, which consisted of two unremarkable platforms and a mobile wall that was brought out a couple of times.
Lysistrata at the Church of the Advocate’s Kline Theater is not a glamorous show by any means. There is no live band, other than the occasional note from a gong that is used as a prop. But the production had humor and soul, which outweighed its shortcomings.
It’s clear that this troupe of actors is talented. Their show needs a more dynamic set to realize its potential.
Lysistrata, Cross Your Legs Sister!
Repeats Sept. 20 and 21 at Kline Theater at the Church of the Advocate, 2121 N. Gratz St .