The Concord Journal
Greek play brings sex and laughter to town
By Parkman Howe  

Special to the Journal

The barbarians are at the gate: war abroad, civil strife at home, traditions thrown out, authority challenged. Nothing works the way it should any more.

America in 1991?g No. Greece in 412 B.C. A wasting war between Athens and Sparta has prompted the women of both countries to band together. They seize the Parthenon and refuse to sleep with their husbands. Theirs is the Peace Now Party. It is astonishing how little things have changed.

As every schoolboy used to know, Aristophanes is where you go for sex and naughty words. It is very difficult to tone down Aristophanes. It is best either to Put Him On or try another play. Director Kay DeFord, together with her merry band of actors, plus costume and lighting designers, Puts Aristophanes On (in both senses.)

Franklin Meissner's lighting design is wonderful. The background scrim shimmers with reds and blues; the aisles light up; center stage is a wash with colors worthy of a Republican National Convention. Carol Emerson's set design, with its columns of silk cloth, goes a long way toward suggesting the Parthenon.

Jeanne Ferland's costumes by themselves are worth the price of admission. They seem to be inexhaustible. The cast appears and reappears with progressively more gaudy and more outlandish attire. Half the fun lies in waiting for the next outrageous embellishment worn by the courageous and daring cast. These eye-popping, inspiring vestments have to be seen, as they say, to be believed.

Susan Ellsworth as Lysistrata holds the show together with her commanding presence. Very much like the host of Saturday Night Live, her face becomes straighter as the humor becomes broader. Peggy Eliot and Jack Sweet, as the heads of the energetic Female and Male Choruses, respectively, obviously enjoy throwing their below-the-belt punches at each other. Bill Maxwell is a sturdy Magistrate, the play's straight man.

Rob Silva rises to the occasion as Kinesias; evidently a hard part to uphold. Tillie Sweet as Kalonike opens doors to new vistas and tells it like it is. John Kinsman and Ian Enright have the enviable task of playing attendant Video Men (don't ask -- go see!)

Some of the cast suffered from opening night nerves. Perhaps they were wondering if anyone would laugh. We did, and much more than once. Future performances should go smoothly.

Kay DeFord is responsible the show's overall conception. The production is infused with her energy, imagination and ribald humor. The show moves quickly' less than two hours and no intermission. It is a parade of one goofy and glorious conception after another. Aristophanes requires more than a dash of low vaudeville cunning, and DeFord meets the challenge head on. This is her debut as a director with the Players (although she has directed more than 25 shows with Act/Tunes at the Emerson Umbrella.) In DeFord the Concord Players have found a rare, multifaceted director.

See this show. Find out why the map of the world is like a woman; learn what happens when you cross the best aspects of a man and a woman. Concord will never be the same after this...