In Odyssey Theatre’s Lysistrata and The Temple of Gaia, the audience is brought forward in time as tourists to a not too distant future where humankind has continued on its path of self-absorbed entitlement and waste to have basically ruined the planet. The rich live with their slaves in enclaves, somewhat protected from the incredibly volatile weather, willfully ignoring everything that might cause them upset.
Lysistrata (Lizzie) is barren and has concocted a plan to call upon the ancient Greek goddess Gaia to help get her knocked up. In the meanwhile, her husband has embarked on a quest to make him undisputed tyrant (his word) of Greece, where the play is set. They’re at odds immediately and their conflict is escalated to the nth after the Gaia summoning is successful and Gaia lays out an ultimatum for Lysistrata with the fate of all humankind at stake.
Every hot topic of the day is thrown into Lysistrata and the Temple of Gaia — environmentalism and global warming, fracking, consent, fascism, men’s rights, the low attention span of the social media generation, feminism and the patriarchy, et cetera — and it is, regrettably, handled with all the subtlety and cleverness of a jackhammer.
Truth: Nearing the end of the evening, I found myself thinking the only thing left was for the cast to preach directly to us tourists about our own every day willful ignorance — and then they did. Unneeded, guys. We got it. You were pretty overt.
This isn’t to say there weren’t a few interesting ideas in all the roughage — some of the song and choreo was cool and some of the fourth wall breaking meta-dialogue was indeed clever — but whatever potential there was was lost amidst the generally stale and troubled writing.
Worse, the character/relationship drama underpinning the show suffered from the same lack of depth and complexity, leaving no real incentive to care how it turned out for anybody, except for a bizarre curiosity akin to watching a train derail.
Because the thing is, despite the script and some of the direction, there was an enjoyable charm to Lysistrata and the Temple of Gaia. Even with its flaws, like with a good bad B-movie, it was still kind of a fun (if not bewildering) time in the end.
Odyssey Theatre’s production values were all top notch. The set was gorgeous, the costumes were fab, and Gaia’s entrance and subsequent scene rocked the night. And the cast really gave it their all working with what they were given.
Catriona Leger was a delight on stage both as H and especially as the larger than life Gaia. Sarah Finn’s performance as voice of reason Cassandra, was honest, nuanced and endearing. Shelley Simester gave us an impassioned, earnest, and engaging Lysistrata, aggressively pursuing her hero’s task of saving the planet. Or having a baby to distract her husband from tyranny. Or something.
In the end, the slaves tell you right off the beginning that this isn’t a comedy, don’t laugh, it’s a tragedy. While there were some laughs despite their warning (as many at the play as with it), the slaves weren’t wrong.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you thought. Did Lysistrata hit all the right buttons for you to have a good night out under the stars? Were there more penises than you expected in the Temple of Gaia? Tell me what you think in the comments below.
Lysistrata and the Temple of Gaia, presented by Odysssey Theatre, runs now through August 26th in gorgeous Strathcona Park. For full info and to buy tickets online: odysseytheatre.ca