(Charles McNulty’s article appeared September 14 in the L.A. Times.)
The comedies of Aristophanes—so sanely rebellious, so tastily profane—are perhaps more tantalizing to us moderns than the ancient Greek tragedies. They are also more theatrically elusive, loaded with topical references that require either heavy annotation or radical adaptation. And the gamboling lyrical intelligence that encourages metaphors to come to life makes it difficult for our prosier sensibilities to keep pace with these hilarious Dionysiac fever dreams.
In the wrong hands—like the stodgy academic translation I read before attending the Getty Villa's new production of Aristophanes’ “Peace”—the zaniness can have a musty, archaeological aroma.
Let’s enjoy, then, for the time being this giddy reworking by John Glore and the Culture Clash trio of Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza, which may give short shrift to the playwright’s admittedly distant poetry but succeeds in forging a direct and exceedingly jokey connection with a local audience.
Sure, a phallus is worn by male actors in good old classical form. And there’s a valiant attempt to capture (within more demure 21st century limits) the ribald lunacy and satirically snapping spirit of the play, which was first done in 421 BC, 10 years into the ruinous 27-year-long Peloponnesian War, when a truce seemed like a not-so-distant possibility. But the production, resourcefully directed by Bill Rauch at the Villa’s heavenly outdoor Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater, is pitched expressly to contemporary Angelenos.
(John Fleck's work is represented in One on One: The Best Men's Monologues for the 21st Century, available now from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.)
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