Vancouver Sun

Comedy continues Bard’s trans-Shakespear­ean fun


The four shows at Bard on the Beach this summer almost seem in competitio­n. Angry genderreve­rsed Timon of Athens on the Howard Family Stage challenges tragic Macbeth in the big tent. And now the raucous metatheatr­ical fun of Lysistrata goes head-to-head with joyous As You Like It next door.

If you feature Shakespear­ean characters singing Beatles songs in the Okanagan, see As You Like It. If your taste leans toward women with giant erect penises, Lysistrata is for you.

Spoiler alert: the penises aren’t real.

Director Lois Anderson and co-adapter Jennifer Wise give us a version of Lysistrata, Aristophan­es’ 411 BC comedy about Greek women who go on a sex strike to stop the Peloponnes­ian War, that says a lot about gender and politics in 2018 Vancouver.

On the fence outside the small tent you might notice one of those ubiquitous Developmen­t Applicatio­n signs announcing a project to rezone Vanier Park for a shipping terminal. Inside, the company of actresses has decided to protest the project by improvisin­g a production of Lysistrata instead of performing their all-female Hamlet.

Colleen Wheeler keeps wanting to do “To be or not to be” but Jennifer Lines and Luisa Jojic, who plays Athenian sex-strike organizer Lysistrata, convince her that their protest is more important. Indigenous actress Quelemia Sparrow helps rally the troops by explaining the First Nations history of Vanier Park and insisting on using its Musqueam name, Sen’akw.

Much goofy comedy ensues as old women occupy the Acropolis and balding old men try to burn them out. The droopy breasts and

saggy bollocks have an extended fight. A horny husband with a metre-long foam pool-noodle erection fails to convince his wife to sleep with him. Spartans appear with headdresse­s made of toilet paper rolls and water bottles, costumer Barbara Clayden having as much fun as anyone.

When a couple of funny cops, Sebastien Archibald and Joel D. Montgrand, show up to arrest actress Adele Noronha for defacing park property, the women have to convince them of the validity of their protest, like Aristophan­es’ women persuading men to tend to feminine wisdom.

Aristophan­es and Anderson both employ silliness as an element of political strategy. Like the gigantic balloon of baby Trump used to protest his London visit, they intend to deflate the pomposity and selfimport­ance of male authority, the arrogance responsibl­e for selfdestru­ctive wars or equally stupid policies like any one of Trump’s.

Not everything works. Scenes go on too long, an audience involvemen­t segment is pretty lame, the songs introduced late in the play feel redundant and the ending drags, though its heart is certainly in the right place.

But the show’s success is substantia­l, relying on the strength of the ensemble with all the women playing multiple roles: Ming Hudson, Marci T. House, Michelle Fisk and Sharon Crandall in addition to those I’ve mentioned.

Bravo to Bard for expanding its mandate to allow for such smart trans-Shakespear­ean fun.

 ??  ?? From left: Lysistrata’s Jennifer Lines, Quelemia Sparrow and Marci T. House.
From left: Lysistrata’s Jennifer Lines, Quelemia Sparrow and Marci T. House.

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