Arts

Pear Theatre offers well acted, poorly produced 'Lysistrata'

Streaming version of the ancient Greek comedy is available online through Nov. 15

Natashia Deneé plays The Commissioner, left, and Cynthia Lagodzinski stars in the title role of "Lysistrata," a video production by the Pear Theatre. Photo by John Deven.

Yes, we audience members are desperate to see live theater and actors are desperate to perform. And bless their hearts at the Pear Theatre for wanting to bring us a show -- "Lysistrata" -- via the magic of video recording.

But the video, which is available through Nov. 15, is a technical mess.

The show is often funny -- it is an ancient Greek comedy, after all -- but it looks and sounds as if director Betsy Kruse Craig and videographers Sinjin Jones and John Beamer had never seen an actual movie, and had no idea of how to make a play work on a screen. Directing for the stage is entirely different from directing for a camera.

And, the production is hampered by the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Everybody in the all-woman cast wears a full-face, clear-plastic mask and everybody stays socially distanced. It looks like the entire production was filmed in The Pear's side parking lot.

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But even accounting for that, there is no forgiveness for the tragic blocking, which makes it difficult to know who is performing from scene to scene. The unfortunate camera flow makes it hard to keep track of dialogue, which is not helped by the inept sound mixing. Lines of dialogue are overwhelmed by clacking sounds of props on the stage, or unexplained crashing noises.

The blocking might have worked indoors on a regular stage -- Kruse Craig is an accomplished and capable stage director -- but it doesn't work in this format.

For those who can tolerate the ham-handed video production, there are laughs to be had, and all eight members of the cast have moments that can be enjoyed. There is some good acting happening behind those plastic face masks, although it is sometimes hard to see, thanks to sun glare on the plastic.

Tyler Jeffreys plays Lampito in "Lysistrata," a video production by the Pear Theatre. Photo by John Deven.

This production is Carolyn Balducci's 1991 adaptation of the play by Aristophanes, first performed in Athens in 411 B.C. In it, the women of Athens, tired of their husbands and lovers always being away at war, decide to withhold sex until the men agree to keep the peace.

The embargo is suggested and organized by Lysistrata, played strongly by Cynthia Lagodzinski. She starts with Kalonike (played with plenty of humor by the great Nicole Martin), and soon more women are gathered, from all the warring Greek cities.

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Can they get the men to cooperate?

"Men always want to cooperate," says one woman." The only problem is getting them to stop."

Pouring wine in a Spartan shield, the women swear an oath, which includes "to my lover or my husband, I'll not open my doors, though he flaunts his battering ram."

The young women are helped in their effort by the older-women chorus, which takes over the treasury. The older-men chorus complains, ""To arms! To arms! Men with balls, arouse yourselves! … What if the enemy controls the treasury, which issues my veterans' benefits?"

The play dives deep into a cornball soup as some of the women try to escape Lysistrata's hold.

"They are, to put it bluntly," says Lysistrata, "dying to get laid."

Eventually, the men agree to stop their wars, the wine flows, everybody is happy, and the finale offers a connection between ancient and modern democracy.

While it has its charms, technical difficulties means that the Pear's production -- like Lysistrata's sex strike -- leaves something to be desired.

Freelance writer John Orr can be emailed at [email protected]

"Lysistrata" runs through Nov. 15. Tickets are $30-$34. For more information, go to thepear.org.

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Pear Theatre offers well acted, poorly produced 'Lysistrata'

Streaming version of the ancient Greek comedy is available online through Nov. 15

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Oct 20, 2020, 5:28 pm

Yes, we audience members are desperate to see live theater and actors are desperate to perform. And bless their hearts at the Pear Theatre for wanting to bring us a show -- "Lysistrata" -- via the magic of video recording.

But the video, which is available through Nov. 15, is a technical mess.

The show is often funny -- it is an ancient Greek comedy, after all -- but it looks and sounds as if director Betsy Kruse Craig and videographers Sinjin Jones and John Beamer had never seen an actual movie, and had no idea of how to make a play work on a screen. Directing for the stage is entirely different from directing for a camera.

And, the production is hampered by the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Everybody in the all-woman cast wears a full-face, clear-plastic mask and everybody stays socially distanced. It looks like the entire production was filmed in The Pear's side parking lot.

But even accounting for that, there is no forgiveness for the tragic blocking, which makes it difficult to know who is performing from scene to scene. The unfortunate camera flow makes it hard to keep track of dialogue, which is not helped by the inept sound mixing. Lines of dialogue are overwhelmed by clacking sounds of props on the stage, or unexplained crashing noises.

The blocking might have worked indoors on a regular stage -- Kruse Craig is an accomplished and capable stage director -- but it doesn't work in this format.

For those who can tolerate the ham-handed video production, there are laughs to be had, and all eight members of the cast have moments that can be enjoyed. There is some good acting happening behind those plastic face masks, although it is sometimes hard to see, thanks to sun glare on the plastic.

This production is Carolyn Balducci's 1991 adaptation of the play by Aristophanes, first performed in Athens in 411 B.C. In it, the women of Athens, tired of their husbands and lovers always being away at war, decide to withhold sex until the men agree to keep the peace.

The embargo is suggested and organized by Lysistrata, played strongly by Cynthia Lagodzinski. She starts with Kalonike (played with plenty of humor by the great Nicole Martin), and soon more women are gathered, from all the warring Greek cities.

Can they get the men to cooperate?

"Men always want to cooperate," says one woman." The only problem is getting them to stop."

Pouring wine in a Spartan shield, the women swear an oath, which includes "to my lover or my husband, I'll not open my doors, though he flaunts his battering ram."

The young women are helped in their effort by the older-women chorus, which takes over the treasury. The older-men chorus complains, ""To arms! To arms! Men with balls, arouse yourselves! … What if the enemy controls the treasury, which issues my veterans' benefits?"

The play dives deep into a cornball soup as some of the women try to escape Lysistrata's hold.

"They are, to put it bluntly," says Lysistrata, "dying to get laid."

Eventually, the men agree to stop their wars, the wine flows, everybody is happy, and the finale offers a connection between ancient and modern democracy.

While it has its charms, technical difficulties means that the Pear's production -- like Lysistrata's sex strike -- leaves something to be desired.

Freelance writer John Orr can be emailed at [email protected]

"Lysistrata" runs through Nov. 15. Tickets are $30-$34. For more information, go to thepear.org.

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