Tuesday, September 8, 2020

332. LYSISTRATA. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Melina Mercouri, Priscilla Lopez.

LYSISTRATA [Dramatic Revival] A: Aristophanes; D/TR: Michael Cacoyannis; M: Peter Link; S: Robin Wagner; C: Willa Kim; L: Jules Fisher; P: David Black and David Seltzer; T: Brooks Atkinson Theatre; 11/13/72-11/18/72 (8)

Philip Bruns, Melina Mercouri.`

A cataclysmically inferior revival of Aristophanes’ classical Greek comedy about women who deter their men from going to war by withholding their sexual favors. Highly respected Greek director-adaptor Michael Cacoyannis tried to liven up the proceedings by adding a dozen new Peter Link songs, turning the play into a semi-musical, but the idea fell on its face, as did Cacoyannis’s vulgar, burlesque-like treatment of the playwright’s language and ideas. The crudeness of the staging, writing, and design were noted widely. “This is an evening that has the breath of failure about it from start to finish,” wrote Douglas Watt.

Cacoyannis used modern dress and updating of the dialogue to make the show more relevant to a nation at war in Vietnam, and his choice of words was often profane. Clive Barnes called the effort “frankly abominable.”

A novel feature of the otherwise unsuccessful set was a ramp that ran from the stage, along the side of the theatre, and across the front of the mezzanine. Lysistrata was portrayed by voluptuous Greek star Melina Mercouri, whose charisma was duly noted. However, not one critic felt she was able to overcome her lack of singing ability or the many weaknesses of the enterprise surrounding her. 

Acting in her support were Priscilla Lopez (before A Chorus Line), Madeleine Le Roux, Mary Jo Catlett, Jane Connell, Avril Gentiles, Philip Bruns, and others.