The Timelessness of Broom Street Theater’s “Lysistrata”

Maria Dahman as Lysistrata and Melissa Minkoff as Lampito. Photo courtesy Jess Schuknecht.

By Julia Richards | Photo courtesy Jess Schuknecht

When Broom Street Theater decided to again produce “Lysistrata,” (which was the theater’s first ever play) in celebration of their 50th anniversary this year, they didn’t know that actress Alyssa Milano would call for a sex strike, the same tactic employed in the play originally written nearly 2,500 years ago.

The comedy tells the story of women in ancient Greece withholding sex in an effort to end the war their men are fighting. “It is shockingly relevant,” today, says Jen Plants, director of Broom Street Theater’s current production. She’s adapted the setting to reflect a ’90s Madison feminist punk scene. The emphasis is shifted from ending war to issues of gender, sex and consent.

Milano, known for spreading the #metoo movement, called for women to stop having sex earlier this month in response to restrictive abortion legislation passed in several states.

“You can’t do a play about women looking to gain power without looking at what’s going on now,” Plants says. The play has been well received with at least one sold-out show. Plants’ production breaks down the fourth wall with the audience, as actors hand out literature about what constitutes consent.

Plants describes the play, which she has directed and acted in previously, as picturing women asking themselves, “What power do we have? Because people aren’t listening.” Milano used the same tactic as Lysistrata to get a national conversation going, which also demonstrates the enduring power of the stage. “Theater is a place to listen,” Plants says.

“Lysistrata” runs through June 1 at Broom Street Theater showing at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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