Having triumphed in such demanding roles as Electra and Antigone, Greek actress Lydia Koniordou may seem to be taking a well-deserved break by assuming the title role in Aristophanes’ anti-war comedy Lysistrata. But for this internationally acclaimed stage veteran, big laughs often carry with them big responsibility. “Comedy has a kind of acuteness to it,” Koniordou said in a recent phone interview. “With tragedy, you can feel like you’re being burdened with more problems. What’s beautiful about comedy is that you have a good time and you can think about real issues. It can be even more daring than tragedy because it speaks with humor. Its outspokenness is excused.”
Koniordou will put her theory to the test this week when she performs in the National Theater of Greece’s production of Lysistrata at City Center. The story of a group of Greek women who deny their husbands sex in a bid to end a war with Sparta, Lysistrata marks the first time the actress has performed in a comedy in the United States. Koniordou said she approached the role in the same manner as her previous performances. “I tried to create a Lysistrata that is a recognizable woman we can discover inside of ourselves,” she said. “I didn’t want to create a character who is eccentric and far out.” She said director Kostas Tsianos helped her tap into that vein by connecting the play to certain ancient folk rituals. Some of those rituals are quite bawdy in nature, she noted, and involve phallic pottery and other sexual implements.
Lysistrata arrives in New York at a time when several ancient Greek plays are being revived for their anti-war sentiment—among them Euripides’ Hecuba at the Culture Project, Acharnians at Theater Three, and the Antigone Project at the Women’s Project. Part of what drew Koniordou to Lysistrata was the popular resurgence it experienced at the height of the Iraq War when theater groups around the world held readings as a form of peaceful protest. “The play speaks for what the people of today feel about the real causes of war,” Koniordou said. “I’d like to offer my work in this play to those women who lost their family in the war and 9-11 and who said they don’t want other women to cry for their lost ones. They are very courageous women. They are all Lysistratas in a sense.”
For tickets to the National Theater of Greece’s Lysistrata at City Center this week call 212-581-1212.