CityRep and TheatreOCU debut an adaptation of ‘Lysistrata,’ the comedic forerunner of all bawdy battles of the sexes

8 p.m. Friday -Saturday , 4 p.m. Saturday,
2 p.m. Sunday
Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre and TheatreOCU
Freede Little Theatre, Civic Center Music Hall
201 N. Walker

Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre, in partnership with Oklahoma City University’s TheatreOCU, presents one of the oldest and funniest plays in Western civilization, coming about not long after the beginnings of theater itself in ancient Greece.

Originally produced in 411 B.C., “Lysistrata” remains one of the most produced comedies in history, chronicling the broad and bawdy tale of one woman’s ingenious plan to bring an end to the Peloponnesian War by persuading all the women of Greece to withhold sexual favors from the men until they agree to stop fighting.

“The universality of its appeal lies, I think, in the sharpness of its satire about human follies that are still with us in the 21st century,” said James Tyra, the CityRep co-founder who authored this adaptation. “The battle of the sexes, the flimsy foundation of overinflated pride, the self-feeding orgy of political partisanship “” all of these themes resonate in the modern world.”

Unsatisfied with existing translations that were either too slavish to the rhyme scheme and period-specific references of the original or went too far afield, losing the setting altogether, Tyra decided to pen his own version of “Lysistrata” with the goal of creating a happy medium.

“I have tried to set up a number of modern targets for the satirical barbs, while keeping the setting in its original time and place,” he said. “My goal has been to give this story some modern echoes without wrenching it from its original moorings.”

Award-winning actress and audiobook narrator Emily Gray directs. She sought to find a balance between reverence for the classical style of Greek theater and Tyra’s modern references and jokes.

“He has been very patient with me trying new words, phrases and re-workings of moments within the script,” Gray said. “I am constantly questioning why certain words and phrases are used, and asking to add silly jokes and wordplay.”

She said that while the sets and costumes are inspired by classical Greek theater, some liberties have been taken.

“The costumes have been made sexier, more diaphanous, and everyone looks either gorgeous or hilarious,” she said.

An example of hilarious: The men in the cast will be sporting special, protrusion-creating apparatuses under their skirts and togas, guaranteed to generate laughs.

Gray is quick to brag on her cast, comprised of professional actors and OCU students.

“A better-looking cast I have not seen in a long while! At the same time, they are totally open to making themselves seem foolish in order to further the story and lift the humor. I am very lucky to have them,” she said.

Gray was aware of “Lysistrata,” but had never read or seen the play before she was asked to direct this production. However, she immediately fell in love with the premise and was struck by how relevant an ancient play can be.

“Sexual politics and human behavior really haven’t changed,” she said, adding that the strength and power held by women in a given society is “very telling” about its overall stability.

“Athenian women really had very few freedoms and rights, but they exercised the one they did have,” she said. “Plus, who doesn’t love a good willy joke or several?” “”Eric Webb


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