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Friday, February 27, 2004

An artist answers his challengers...

Last night's performance of L3K went great, the audience clearly loved it and lots of them said so, just as all our previous audiences have. Unfortunately, we also learned yesterday that we are not critically acclaimed as it were. Nick Green, the critic from the Chicago Reader unleashed an utterly poison pen review of the show, which wasn't entirely surprising, as the Reader prides itself on pretentiousness and disdain for anything ordinary people might like. (In a Marxist sort of way though) Ask me about film critic Johnathan Rosenbaum some time. Anyway, I was told the review was terrible hours before I read it so I was sort of dreading it, wondering if the review would hit what I thought to be actual weak points and actually exploiting my vulnerabilities. Fortunately once I did read the review I was delighted to find that it bypassed and actual weak points and was merely a badly written rant full of factual errors, false assumptions and truly puzzling conclusions. He attacked the show through the single dumbest route possible, comparing it to the original ancient Greek Lysistrata, which is a bit like critiquing Hamlet because it doesn't follow the majesty of the original Nordic revenge sagas. Being the mature, dignified writer that I am, I will now offer my point by point refutation of the review:

LYSISTRATA 3000 American Demigods, at the Athenaeum Theatre. It seems every young company eager to make a political statement instinctively reaches for Aristophanes' antiwar comedy, in which Lysistrata incites the women of Athens to go on a sex strike.

Evidently, Mr. Green did not read the program in which I state that the show was first written and produced several years ago, and is explicitly *not* intended as any kind of topical "political statement". As with everything I write, it's meant to be a good story first, politics are incidental. And our "young company" was formed for the explicit purpose of staging the show.

If only writer-director Rory Leahy had had the sense to preserve the dignity of the original in this turgid reworking,

I'm curious as to what part of the original's dignity Mr. Green would have had me preserve. The part where the women dump buckets of water on the men's heads, or the part with the giant phalluses?

set in a dystopian future where citizens crowd the streets in Greco-Roman rags and sip lattes. Lysistrata 3000 proves to be an ass-backward mix of high-minded drama and old-fashioned sci-fi schlock,

Ass backward? So the old fashioned sci-fi schlock should have come first?

including a military plan to combat "vicious acts of attrition" with "the dreaded goo of death." Leahy's main contribution is a litany of dick jokes,

Apart from the absurdity of this statement, it is increasingly clear that Mr. Green has no knowledge of the original Lysistrata, or he would know that it is nothing *but* dick jokes. Aristophanes is the reason they invented the word "bawdy"! I only threw in the occasional dick joke out of a desire to be *somewhat* faithful to the spirit of the original.

which culminates in Ajax's particularly crude recommendation for resolving his swollen state.

Which of course, brings the house down every night, but then, the ignorant proles will laugh at anything won't they? Sorry, getting off topic, I'm trying to stick to the facts.

What I find telling about this bit of the review is how casually Mr. Green references the character of "Ajax" with no explanation or context for the reader. Perhaps this is because Mr. Green assumes the reader familiar with the original play will have some knowledge of the famous character of Ajax, as surely as one might know say, Creon from Oedipus Rex, oh yeah, Ajax from "Lysistrata". Perhaps Mr. Green is unaware of the fact that Ajax is *wholly my invention* and does not appear in any previous version of the play! I mention this only because it seems to undercut the great position of authority from which Mr. Green pretends to write.

The adaptation's cut-and-paste approach, folding in bits of the original dialogue, turns really ugly when Leahy's performers recite the five-dollar words with glazed expressions.

My only response to this is...GAH!!!!....What "cut-and-paste approach"? My play uses virtually *none* of the original dialogue! There are perhaps two or three archetypal moments in the entire two hour show, where I pay tribute to the original *fleetingly* using some of the original sentiments. Although they're not spoken in *ancient Greek*!

The energy is low throughout most of the first act but gets sucked out of the theater completely once the merciful intermission is over.

My kickass actors can defend themselves, this is an aesthetic judgment, a poor one but it cannot be refuted by facts and logic as the rest can.

Altogether it takes two hours of incoherent rambling and penny-dreadful buffoonery

Okay, it's entirely possible that I ramble, but incoherently? I may have lots of words but I believe they flow pretty logically and I invite anyone to prove otherwise. I cohere, baby, oh yes, I cohere. And "penny-dreadful buffoonery" what does that mean? Is that Mr. Green's theatrical erudition talking again. Forgive me, I'm just a poor, ignorant lad but my understanding of the term "penny-dreadful" is that it refers to turn of the twentieth century melodrama, it's generally not associated with comedy, or "buffoonery". Did you mean "vaudeville buffoonery" Mr. Green? Just trying to help you out.

just to cut to the heart of the matter, when Leahy bluntly labels Lysistrata "an older chick who totally speaks out."

Again, I'm dumbfounded, the allegedly climactic line is spoken in the first twenty minutes of the show (which is when Mr. Green obviously stopped taking notes) and the character who speaks it is a young admirer of Lysistrata's, a character with her own voice that is certainly not the show's voice. It is in no way emblematic of the play as a whole, certainly not "the heart of the matter" and it is truly puzzling that Mr. Green chooses it to glibly summarize the themes. Oh yeah, and to bash the fact that we're young.

Imagination has, like, finally failed us. --Nick Green

Glad you make use of the first person plural when discussing a failure of imagination, Mr. Green. Again, your biggest problem seems to be our collective, relative youth. I'm not sure how old Mr. Green is, but it is clear that he is "old" in the worst, non-chronological sense. Why doncha all just f...fade away?

So yeah, I'm a little touchy about the fact that I got a bad review my first time out on the semipro Chicago stage, but I'm actually rather pleased that the review was so illogical, poorly written and yes, incoherent.

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Replies: 2 comments

If you don't believe Rory about the dignity of the original Lysistrata, take a look at this.

Well, OK. To be fair, here's a more traditionally-flavored translation. But you can clearly see the dick jokes. "Spare the eels", indeed.

I wonder if entertainment icon Tom Green got kidnaped by some ruthless star chamber of cultural-values guardians. And they forced him to learn English and repudiate everything he stood for. And they only let him join their group if he changed his name to Nick.

I think he's still bitter about the experience.

As someone who has seen (and been in the original) "L3K" I think I can say with perfect honesty that it is an AMAZING piece of work, one even worthy of being published.

Oh, yeah, and I was also a Classics major. The reviewer can sod off, the pretentious git.

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