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Old Comedy After Aristophanes' Frogs
David Greenspan's new play Old Comedy After Aristophanes' Frogs is certainly true to the spirit of Aristophanes and his times. But Greenspan mixes Aristophanes' play with so many famous people who populated the two thousand plus years since the playwright's death, and does this in such a haphazard way, that his play becomes an incomprehensible hodgepodge. It may tickle many an intellectual's fancy, but it lacks the cohesion, structure, and unity that make a play work.
The play is billed as "the Classic Stage Company presentation of The Target Margin Theater world premiere" so it's hard to tell exactly who is responsible for this mess. Since it is directed by David Herskovits, who has helmed many plays for Target Margin, one can assume he should take much of the blame.
The Frogs tells the story of the Greek god Dionysus who despairs over the state of Greek tragedy and, after consulting with his cousin Heracles, travels with his slave Xanthias to Hades where he hopes to retrieve Euripides. As he crosses the River Charon, Dionysus hears the croaking of the frogs.
After several misadventures, Dionysus finds Euripides, who having recently died, is challenging Aeschylus for the seat of Best Tragic Poet at the dinner table of Hades. Dionysus becomes the judge, and the conflict is eventually settled when Dionysus calls for a scale so he can decide which playwright has written the weightiest words. Aeschylus wins, and after more discussion, Dionysus decides to take Aeschylus back to Greece because he has given the god the best advice on how to save Athens after the disastrous battle of Arginusae.
Greenspan's version makes reference to The Wizard of Oz, the Jewish and Christian Bibles, and Roman as well as Greek mythology. It brings in the current state of Broadway and its audiences, the politics of George W. Bush, the war in Iraq, and the relative merits of such writers as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. Eugene O'Neill and Walt Whitman, among others, are thrown in for good measure. Every once in a while Aristophanes' original play rears up, but unless one has at least a passing knowledge of the original play, those moments will be lost.
Old Comedy After Aristophanes' Frogs features an ensemble cast with actors playing various parts, which only increases the general confusion. There's plenty of movement, a plethora of Greek and animal costumes, a curtain drawn across the stage to represent the river as the boat is dragged by its side. Thomas Cabaniss has composed music that is performed by various percussion instruments and kazoos. No lack of theatricality here. But for those who don't appreciate the kitchen sink method of playwriting and performance Greenspan and Herskovits seem to advocate, Old Comedy After Aristophanes' Frogs is for the birds.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
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