Written and Directed by Doug Schutte
Review by Craig Nolan Highley
Entire contents are copyright © 2016, Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.
Zana Lister, Gracie Taylor, Shay Smith, Sabrina Spalding, Meghan Logue, & Leila Toba in Misses Strata. Photo courtesy of The Bard’s Town.
The 2016 Presidential election season is undoubtedly the most outrageous in history, a fact disputed by no one on either side of the aisle. It’s just gotten ugly, undignified, and downright scary and is sure to remain contested well after Election Day.
But Doug Schutte and The Bard’s Town Theater Company have decided they can make it even more absurd, and, rising to the challenge, they present us with a modern-day, DC-set reinterpretation of Aristophanes’ classic Lysistrata. The result is the occasionally clever, sometimes hilarious, often delightfully inappropriate Misses Strata, running through October 23 on the Bard’s Town stage. And this is certainly a more compelling October Surprise than anything the current candidates have provided so far!
You get a pretty good idea of what you’re in for as soon as you walk into the theater and see the set design. The stage is awash in a traditional red, white, and blue, stars and stripes motif, creating columns that remind us of the buildings in the US Capitol. Upon closer inspection, you notice the columns are creating not-so subtle phallic imagery that sets the bar for taste pretty low before the show even starts!
We are introduced by President Obama (a spot-on impersonation by Tony Smith) to Mrs. Strata, the legendary Lysistrata herself (Sabrina Spalding), somehow still alive today, and here to save Washington from itself. In her own classic story, she had organized the women of ancient Greece to refuse sex to their men until all war was ceased. Now, she intends to use the same ultimatum with the women of DC to get men of Congress to end the deadlock and start, “getting things done”.
It’s a clever idea for a satirical view of today’s politics (and I understand, the current production is a heavily rewritten version of the same play the Bard’s Town introduced four years ago during the last Presidential campaign). Apparently the rewrites have continued right up to opening, because some of the jokes reference some very recent turns in the current election farce we’re all living through.
Performances are generally good, though I do wish Shay Smith as Michelle Obama and Zana Lister as Mira the Intern (who both list mostly film credits instead of theater experience in their bios) would learn to project more; a lot of their early dialogue was completely lost. Writer/Director Doug Schutte is a hilarious Bill Clinton (although even his voice gets a little lost during his musical numbers). The best impersonations are given by Ryan Watson as Dick Cheney and J.P Lebangood as Trump; both actors have nailed the mannerisms and personas. But the standout here is Leila Toba as Sarah Palin! The resemblance is uncanny, and the word salad she spews has just the right level of Palin’s “yew-betcha!” inflection that the actress melts away and the character takes over. Truly amazing work.
Overall I enjoyed the production. A lot of the humor hit just the right notes, even if a few of the jokes did bomb badly. The enthusiastic performances go a long way toward selling the material even when it fails.
I think if you like political commentary and aren’t turned off by some vulgar language and images, you’ll enjoy this show no matter which side of the aisle you are on; both the Democrats and Republicans get their fair share of skewering throughout the proceedings.
Starring Zana Lister, J.P. Lebangood, Meghan Logue, Doug Schutte, Sabrina Spalding, Shay Smith, Tony Smith, Gracie Taylor, Leila Toba, and Ryan Watson.
October 13-16, 20-23 (all shows at 7:30 PM)
Advanced Tickets $16 ($15 for seniors ages 65+, and $14 for students).
At the door: $18/$17/$16
Recommended for ages 17+ and those not offended by strong sexual innuendo and bawdy language (it’s based on LYSISTRATA, after all).
The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
Craig Nolan Highley has been active in local theatre as an actor, director and producer for more than 12 years. He has worked with Bunbury Theater, Clarksville Little Theatre, Finnigan Productions, Louisville Repertory Company, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Co., and WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre among others. He has been a member of the Wayward Actors Company since 2006, and currently serves as their Board President. Craig’s reviews have also appeared in TheatreLouisville and Louisville Mojo.