Most generations claim to have invented sex, but you need only immerse yourself in any Greek comedy to discover that intercourse is seriously old news. Lysistrata, Aristophanes’ sex-strike amusement of 411 B.C., can still make even a libertine blush with its references to erections, anal sex, and the “lion on the cheese grater” pose. So it’s surprising to discover just how little sexual content graces Lysistrata Jones, the Transport Group’s modern-day musical version of the ancient bawdry.
Staged in a site-specific setting at the Judson Church Gym by director-choreographer Dan Knechtges, this Lysistrata relocates itself to Athens U. Dispirited by the basketball team’s 30-year losing streak, cheerleader Lyssie (Patti Murin) bans bonking until the Spartans win a game. (That the original enacted a similar prohibition to end the Peloponnesian War points to a diminution of stakes.)
Douglas Carter Beane studs his book with topical jokes and some less topical ones. (Kitty Dukakis?) Composer Lewis Flinn blows many of his best lyrics in the first number, in which a plus-size chorus leader (the delicious Liz Mikel) describes how they’ve adjusted the source material: “So sue us, it’s public domain.” The remainder of the score relies on pleasant if generic pop and R&B anthems, several of which invite fist-pumping. Only the enthusiasm of the sprightly cast and Knechtges’s lively direction render the tunes memorable.
If Aristophanes’ play treats sex as a desperate biological imperative, these writers view it as something ancillary and a little icky, as when Mikel describes herself to be “moist as a snack cake.” That’s as lewd as this PG-13 production ever gets. Then again, crafting a family-friendly sex comedy is actually pretty perverse.