The greeks gave us many cool things: gyros, democracy, theater . . . And, as Irvine Valley College's production of two great ancient Greek plays shows, the Greeks also staged the first skirmishes of a gender war that would, nearly 2,500 years later, lead to suffrage, equal-pay claims and Sacajawea on the new dollar coin.
Though radically different in directorial concept, the political and social reverberations of these plays presented as part of An Evening With the Greeks—Medea, Euripides' tragedy of spurned wives and infanticide, and Lysistrata, Aristophanes' politically driven sex farce—make for an intriguing night of theater. Director John Beane opts for a traditional Medea.Betrayed by Jason, who has cast her aside to marry the daughter of King Creon for financial and political gain, Medea concocts one of the most hideous revenge schemes in the whole of literature. Beane is fortunate to have the gifted Tari Schermeron as his Medea. She is a wild-eyed, desperate creature, furious at her loss and seeking some way to avenge herself. This desperation somehow manages to make Medea a sympathetic character, even as she plots and enacts the vile infanticide that marks her final revenge.
In contrast, John-Frederick Jones turns in a staging of Lysistrata that is downright strange. The women hail from all eras—star-spangled cheerleaders mix with buxom rednecks, Catholic schoolgirls and glamour queens—and Lysistrata herself is presented as a Lucille Ball character. Oh, yeah: this version is also a musical. . . .
Somehow the whole mishmash works. It's funny as hell and a reminder that whether trying to stop a war or get the laundry done, women can always get men to promise anything in exchange for nookie.