‘Lysistrata Jones’ Falls Short in the Finals
Manoa Valley Theatre concludes its 2015-2016 season with a youthful play about two famous sports. Basketball, one of the nation’s favorite pastimes, and sex, one of the world’s favorite pastimes, come together in a modern musical adaptation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. Lysistrata Jones follows its Grecian ancestor in plot and theme, except instead of Greek women withholding sex from their men to end the Peloponnesian War, it’s the cheerleaders of Athens University withholding sex from their basketball team boyfriends until the guys end their 33-year losing streak and win a game. The Goddess/Narrator Hetaira follows the action and cautions against women and men fighting below the belt in this battle of the sexes, and thus the drama unfolds in this campy and sporty musical.
Unfortunately, some fun was left to be desired as most of the cast did not embrace the camp and energy this show demands, which left a lot of the performances on stage looking and feeling forced, including an inconsistent Latino accent. A line in the show bemoans the lack of passion in today’s society, and it manifests itself onstage where even the choreography felt like it needed to tighten up.
The show does have its moments and high points- Leleaʻa “Buffy” Kahelepuna Wong shines as Hetaira, the Goddess/Narrator that watches over this crew of sexually and victory frustrated group of college students. A bombastic presence that captures the raw spirit needed to carry this play, she has fun onstage as the audience clamors for more. Vontress Mitchell as the fittest player on the team, Tyllis, and Chase Bridgman as team mascot Xander both throw their comic punches in their own styles well. Jody Bill Bachler as the titular Lysistrata Jones and Nicole Brillhante Shepard as library-officer-turned-cheerleader Robin both have refreshing and honest moments of emotional clarity in Act Two. When the cast finds their groove, they’re a delight to watch and laugh at. The final number has all the zeal and zest you had been waiting for the whole play, and then some.
At the end of the night, I had to admit- I did enjoy myself. I laughed a lot throughout the show. The script is fun, campy, and loaded with many blink-and-you-miss-it jokes, with a lot of meta commentary and references that date this circa 2011 production. Looking back, this production had a lot of ingredients going for it. Perhaps a different, clearer direction could have made this play really score.
Michael “Donut” Donato is a staff reviewer. He is currently studying theatre, and is always learning something from every show he sees.