No penis envy here. Only painfully engorged phalluses in the Classical Theatre of Harlem’s raunchy take on Aristophanes’s Lysistrata, the tale of the Greek women who put an end to war by denying their men sex. Directed by Alfred Preisser in a ’90s pan–African American adaptation, the comedy is as broad as the you – know – whats are high. The women prance around as vain and silly sluts, corralled by the regal Lysistrata into thrusting out but withholding their ample charms. Preisser turns the men into clownish clods who, instead of red noses, sport red plastic dildos that inflate to preposterous dimensions as the women tease — and the men writhe in anguish.
There is an amateurish quality to the acting, but what the players lack in polish, they make up in exuberance. Not to mention a sumptuous display of tits and ass colorfully draped in costume designer Munyee Hayes’s form – fitting lycra, diaphanous drapes, or spikes and leather. The troupe’s strength is their dancing, as they roar into sexual overdrive through choreographer Trisha Jeffrey’s Afro – Caribbean fertility orgies and South African boot dances. In one sequence, the women ride astride the men triumphantly, waving their arms like rodeo riders. A butt – shaking, foot – stomping line dance — along Preisser and codesigner Chris McElroen’s sweeping raised promenade — bursts with infectious rhythm. Throughout, there’s an ironic undertone of musical commentary — Ravel’s orgasmic Bolero, Prokofiev’s lyrical Romeo and Juliet — but that’s as subtle as it gets. This could be a good date play… depending on the kind of date you’re looking for.