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Assemblywomen

The Mountain – at Mt. Vernon Place United Methodist Church 900 Massachusetts Ave NW

Remaining Performance:

July 17, 10:15 p.m.

They Say: “The women of Athens seize control of the government, instating an entirely communal society…even when it comes to matters of love. How far is too far in a democracy? This 2400-year-old farce is as topical as it is hysterical.”

Adam’s Take: World history is like a six-string guitar.  There is no shortage of promise and potential that could come from it.  Pick it up, pluck the right strings, and listen to its magic.  That’s the ideal.  But of course it could also sound terrible.  The same holds true for — if I may quote Mr. Jefferson — “the course of human events.”  The possibilities are truly endless.  Where would we be if our ancient Greek forbears had decided that women instead of men should reign supreme?  For Aristophanes such a prospect would have wreaked havoc throughout society.  No. 11 Productions’ take of Assemblywomen seemed satisfied with the fun of just making a little havoc on the stage.

Thrust into Athens’ sole position of power, Praxagora (Sarah Whalen) abolishes all that is evil — war, poverty, lawsuits — and then executes a new decree steeped in idealism and naivety.  All property belongs to all and the needs of all will be satiated, cravings for chickpeas included.  Yet I dare say the results were not universally pleasant.  Most particularly for Zachary Fithian in the role of Epigenes.

Let it be known that this was not meant to be a faithful rendition of Aristophanes.  It was about conveying the ludicrousness implicit in the rather fanciful and hyperbolic what-if he imagined.  Could it really be that a society ruled by women would be so ghastly?  This production, directed by Ryan Emmons and Julie Congress, chooses to respond through parody: dance numbers inspired by Irish jigs and Justin Timberlake.  Lights and a bullhorn used to put the audience front and center.  Commonplace household props repurposed as meaningful symbols of wealth.

Not that this is a flawless production.  The characters would sometimes float out of role.  But this was not meant to be serious.  It was intended to capture the whimsical elements within Aristophanes’ work, as read by an audience of today would understand them.  As with world history, there is always more than one way for a play to be presented on the stage.  In Assemblywomen, No. 11 Productions chooses to revel in a little of the mayhem Aristophanes feared.  The results don’t seem so bad.

See It If: Either of your Womens’s Studies or Ancient Greek Lit classes for the night was cancelled.

Skip It If: You have an unconquerable fear of really long words and all those that come near them.