Lysistrata: still funny after thousands of years

Two characters wear Barbara Clayden's improvised hats in Lysistrata at Bard on the Beach.

Mophead meets baghead by starlight. (Photo of Quelemia Sparrow and Luisa Jojic by Tim Matheson)

Let’s all just agree to see everything that Lois Anderson directs from now on, okay? Two years ago, her reinvention of Pericles for Bard on the Beach was a revelation. And this year she has brought us a Lysistrata that’s so fresh I feel younger after seeing it.

Lysistrata isn’t Shakespeare; it was written by Aristophanes in 411 B.C, and two thousand and twenty-nine years later, it’s still hilarious.

In the story, the Greek city states are engaged in an endless series of wars, so an Athenian named Lysistrata convinces all of the women of Greece to go on a sex strike until the men stop fighting.

Anderson and playwright Jennifer Wise have added a framing device in which an all-female company is performing Hamlet at Bard on the Beach. But when the acting company hears that Vanier Park is about to be turned into a shipping terminal, they decide to stage Lysistrata instead. “Why do a play about a man incapable of action?” they ask, when they could be doing a play about kick-ass women. [Read more…]

Timon of Athens gives you too much time to look at the shoes

Playing Timon of Athens, Colleen Wheeler rages against duplicity.

Colleen Wheeler goes full throttle as Timon of Athens, but director Meg Roe’s take undercuts her efforts. (Photo by Tim Matheson)

As a script, Timon of Athens has problems. Director Meg Roe’s production for Bard on the Beach doesn’t help it out.

There are good reasons why Timon doesn’t enjoy a lot of productions. The play, which Shakespeare probably co-wrote with Thomas Middleton, features a wealthy Athenian who showers his friends with more gifts—jewels and horses—than he can afford. When Timon inevitably goes bankrupt, those supposed friends turn their backs on him. The script is repetitive and obvious: it’s clear from the get-go that Timon is a spendthrift and he’ll pay for it. And Timon gains virtually no insight—he plummets directly from naiveté to embittered rage—so there’s little sense of thematic accumulation or satisfaction.

Still, Timon of Athens can be moving—as it was in director James Fagan Tait’s production for Bard in 2007. In Timon’s worldview, material support is the currency of intimacy. In an early party scene, Timon says to his guests: “Why, I have often wished myself poorer that I might come nearer to you. We are born to do benefits. And what better or properer can we call our own than the riches of our friends?” The guy is fucked up. He mistakes money for love. If a production allows us to see this vulnerability, the play’s heart opens and it becomes an affecting tragedy.

Under Meg Roe’s direction, that doesn’t happen. [Read more…]

As You Like It: you’ll love it

Bard on the Beach is presenting As You Like It.

A little less eye make-up might have made Lindsey Angell’s Rosalind a more androgynous match for Nadeem Phillip’s Orlando.

It could have been a stupid gimmick. Instead, it’s transcendent

In this Bard on the Beach production of As You Like It, director Daryl Cloran has excised about half of Shakespeare’s text and replaced it with Beatles songs. Cloran sets his production in British Columbia in the 60s. The court scenes play out in Vancouver and the Forest of Arden becomes the Okanagan. All of these choices work well—sometimes spectacularly so. [Read more…]

Macbeth: bloody loud

Lady Macbeth (Moya O'Connell) and Macbeth (Ben Carlson) confer intensely.

Lady Macbeth (Moya O’Connell) and Macbeth (Ben Carlson) confer intensely.

Macbeth! All shouting! All the time!

Okay, they’re not shouting all the time, but there is a heck of a lot of hollering in director Chris Abraham’s take on the Scottish play and all of that volume keeps us on the surface of the text.

Moya O’Connell’s Lady Macbeth is a case in point. The first time we hear her speak, she is reading a letter from her husband—as if she were the town crier. As she is seducing Macbeth to murder King Duncan and clear his own way to the throne, Lord and Lady embrace—and she shouts in his ear. Don’t get me wrong: O’Connell fills the role with feeling but, under Abraham’s direction, she does so on such an operatic scale that it’s alienating.

In his program notes, Abraham says, “Macbethis a play that asks its audience to form a unique bond with its protagonists” but, for me, Ben Carlson’s Macbeth is also distancing. He’s loud, but strangely lacking in vitality. Yes, Lady Macbeth has to egg her husband on, but Carlson Macbeth doesn’t give her much to work with. The pronounced passivity of this characterization discourages engagement. [Read more…]