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TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: Lysistrata Jones

December 15th, 2011

Patti Murin and the ladies of "Lysistrata Jones". Photo by Joan Marcus.

Lysistrata Jones

Quip-master Douglas Carter Beane (Xanadu, The Little Dog Laughed) and composer/lyricist (as well as Beane’s life partner) Lewis Flinn update the Aristophanes classic (about women withholding their favors to end a war), resetting it in the world of college basketball and adding a pop-infused score.

“…a heightened touch of summer sun and silliness to what has been an exceptionally gray season for musicals.” New York Times

“”With its catchy pop score, charming cast, zippy staging and wickedly funny book, Lysistrata Jones is one of the season’s tastiest pieces of candy.” New York Post

“…an agreeable, disposable, Off Broadway musical goof on Aristophanes by the creators of Xanadu—has been carted uptown…” New York Magazine

“This college-level High School Musical is layered with giddy and sometimes wicked sophistication, and its company of 12 delivers bright performances backed by energetically brisk staging in this sweetly silly romp.” Variety

Mizer’s Two Cents:  If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Broadway this year it’s this: talented people can make a lot out of even a simple idea. This seemingly one-joke update of an Ancient Greek comedy, like the one-liner foundation of its twisted sister Venus in Fur, takes what could be perceived as sketch-comedy material and stretches it out until it should break–but doesn’t quite. All praise to the writers for finding a resonant theme to give a kernel of weight to what is otherwise a shiny parade of silly and often funny (without being crass) sex jokes; it suggests that in our current world it’s easier to be apathetic than risk failing or upsetting our well-cushioned lives. It’s nice to see a piece of pop fun that encourages passion and belief, without any trace of irony. The production also benefits from a sparkly young cast that dances and sings with infectious pleasure, particularly members of the female ensemble like the previously blogged about Lindsay Nicole Chambers and Liz Mikel. Best of all, Patti Murrin is a blast of sunshine as the titular heroine: big voiced, warm of spirit, comically astute (never overplaying the blonde jokes) and unfailingly honest. In fact, the second act noticeably sags when she is left circling the action in a plot holding pattern.

One could wish for a less repetitive show or one that pays off all of its secondary plots with equal finesse (and one wonders if they meant to capture quite so much of the physical and sonic flatness of a school gymnasium) but this musical isn’t trying to win the Pulitzer; it ain’t for those looking for a carefully wrought comedic musical for the ages. It is trying to make the audience laugh and smile for an evening and, if that’s the object, then the likable Lysistrata shoots and scores.

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