genre: adaptation (Greek Comedy)
running time: 80 minutes
setting: Ancient Athens
period: Classical Times
Praxagora, a woman of Athens
Belpyrus, her husband
Lychus, their neighbor
Hymenia, his wife
Chremes, the chairman of the Congress
Rhodippe, the oldest woman in Athens
Sostrate, the strongest woman in Athens
Clinarete, the ugliest woman in Athens
In the city of Athens, local housewife Praxagora conspires with her neighbor, Hymenia, and other women of Athens, to take over the city by disguising themselves as men and attending the annual Congress, where they plan to vote themselves into power. They successfully pull off the ruse, despite the suspicions of their husbands, Blepyrus and Lychus, and Chremes, the Chairman, appoints Praxagora as the new Tyrant of the City-State. Praxagora immediately implements a variety of extreme communism which includes a law that in order for men and women to have sex with the partner of their choice, they must first have sex with someone who is uglier, older, or both. As Praxagora organizes a celebration feast and confiscates personal property, Lychus and Hymenia flee under the cover of nightfall while Chremes is carried off by a band of women who all claim him as their prize after he attempts to woo Hymenia. Left alone in the streets as chaos erupts all around her, Praxagora continues to use her exceptional oratory skills to assure the audience that everything will work out for the best, once the bugs in the system are ironed out.
I had been fascinated with this play since I was a little kid, and finally did a staged reading of it at Theater Pub, where it was a surprise success, before deciding to adapt it into something a little closer to a modern comedy, while still also trying to preserve everything that made it so deliciously and disgustingly itself, from the onstage defecation scene to the recitation of the longest word in Greek as the finale. Aristophanes and I have a long history together, with Lysistrata being the first play I ever directed, The Clouds having been the first play I acted in at Reed College, and The Frogs being one of my favorite directing gigs of all time. Something about his acerbic, unapologetic cynicism combined with his utterly silly aesthetic really works for me, and though I gave his characters more of an arc and tried to find some redemption in their story, I also think I did my best (using Google Translate) to stick to his original intent and style. Honestly, the whole project, which was commissioned by the EXIT, felt like a dare from beginning to end, and response to the show varied wildly from ecstatic to repulsed, but the cast and crew were a delight and it was a fun experiment in creating a much more literal adaptation then I usually do. It helped that Nicole Odell, Steven Westdahl, and Kyle McReddie were there for the year of development that prefaced the rehearsal period, and made sure the show stayed on point, funny, and just a tiny bit too much to ever be accidentally in good taste.
The EXIT Theatre, May 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 24, 24, 26, 2018 at the EXIT Theatre in San Francisco, California. Directed by Stuart Bousel. Lighting by Curtis Overacre. Costumes by Lindsey Eiffert. Scenery by Mary Naughton. Sound by Ryan Lee Short. Fight Choreography by Kyle McReddie. Artwork by Cody Rishell. Stage Managed by Toni Lynn Guidry. Cast: Elliot Leiberman (Lychus), Lauren Garcia (Hymenia), Amanda Lee (Rhodippe), Kyle McReddie (Chremes), Nicole Odell (Praxagora), Brittany Sims (Sostrate), Alexia Staniotes (Clinarete), Steven Westdahl (Belpyrus).