Friday, August 27, 2010
Theater review part deux: A Bollywood Lysistrata at KD Studio Theatre in Dallas
There is so much pleasure in this production -- lots of buoyant, celebratory dancing, lots of jabs and jibes at the follies of romance.
I daresay you needn’t know Aristophanes’ raunchy, pointed satire on war and the power of sex to appreciate Andi Allen’s spin in Level Ground Arts’ A Bollywood Lysistrata (playing at KD Studio Theatre through September 5). Starting from the assumption that the original piece was never intended as anything but topical, incisive, sex farce, Allen has fashioned this comedy using a contemporary genre, with lots of silly, pleasurable antics, and any excuse to let the beautiful ladies dance in their exotic fabrics and shiny finery. Of course, the men, too, have their opportunities to caper and bound across the stage. But as we so often see in comedies of the sexes, the men are generally buffoons and oafs, ruled in one way or another by testosterone, libido, and swagger. Make no mistake, it’s all good harmless, merry fun. And no theatre company, regardless of content, knows how to share the sheer joy of assembling a show like Level Ground Arts.
A Bollywood Lysistrata opens with the British and Indian men playing a spirited round of cricket. They are completely into it -- co-directors Andi Allen and Bill Fountain even slow down the action so we can take in all the excitement and drama of this time-honored sport. Next Lakshmi appears, after organizing a secret meeting with best friends Chandini and Mahdavi. Then she brings in the British women as well. All concede they are tired of losing serious romantic face time with their men folk. Lakshmi then confides her plan to get the results they fervently crave, but it will take strength and resolve. The proposal, simple yet effective, is refusal to provide sexual consortium until such time as the men agree to forfeit their cricket matches. The owner of the local brothel is brought in for the sake of solidarity (and pragmatism) and all the women, reluctant though steadfast, vow to hold firm to the boycott (hehehe). Sisterhood is powerful.
Now, of course, this is comparable to football widows folding up their tents, and really, if you think about, you could probably make a fair case for avid athletes proving to be better performers (if you know what I mean). But this is the world of comedy and playfulness, and actually, more about women using the scant leverage they have in a patriarchy. So off the ladies go to sequester themselves in a temple while the men are left to fend for themselves. Puns regarding recreation, erections, scoring, etc., abound. The men huff and puff and object to the ladies besmirching “the good name of cricket.” It’s not long before they begin to feel the pressure of deprivation. Appeals to the elder male of the tribe, tantrums, chicanery, and ultimatums do nothing to relieve their plight.
There is so much pleasure in this production. Lots of buoyant, celebratory dancing, lots of jabs and jibes at the follies of romance, lots of flirtatious mischievousness. Philosophers and therapists (and certainly artists) have mused for many ages about the relationship between warfare, the contrived battle of sports, and sexual tension. Ironically, when the Ancient Greeks went to war, most likely the last thing they had to worry about was doing without alleviation. But Andi Allen has ingeniously taken a different path. By setting this battle of the sexes in the midst of the imperialist occupation of 1899 (British/Indian commingling) she’s created a milieu devoid of racism. Whatever their ethnic differences, all the men and all the women share the same boat in this scuffle over leisure time activities. The glorious, rich costumes, the devil-may-care dance breaks, the goofy confrontations. It’s all such bliss.
This review previously appeared on Examiner.com.
Pegasus News Content partner - Christopher Soden, Dallas GLBT Arts Examiner
Christopher Soden is a theater critic who also writes for content partner The Column.
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