Our show starts – for a moment – in ancient Greece. The play Lysistrata has begun under the watchful care of Hetaira. With a twinkle of her eye and a flick of her wrist, we are in the present day and on the campus of Athens University.
Along comes spunky transfer student Lysistrata Jones, who quickly begins dating the captain of the basketball team. Hey, he’s cute; she’s cute... whatevs. But she soon discovers the Spartans aren’t just any basketball team; they are the losingest basketball team in their division and have been for 33 years. Lyssie gets it into her head that the time has come for the team to win a game. She gets the girlfriends of the players to try to be cheerleaders. All the boys need is encouragement! The guys do try, but still fall short. All this is told in quicker time than it just took you to read it in “Right Now: Opening.”
Right on its brisk, condensed story-telling heels, Mick and the crew declare that they don’t care anyway about the loss. Whatever. It is “Right Now: Party Time.” And boom! Like that, we are in the library. Lyssie meets Robin the slightly nerdy, poetry-slamming work-study student. She finds a kindred spirit.
She then meets Xander, the liberal blogger, and convinces him to get his nose out of the Powerbook and start being the school mascot -- the Spartan. Lyssie and Robin then dream of a world without sarcasm and apathy (“Just Once”). While looking at the Spark Notes for Aristophanes (to find out once and for all why her theater major parents ever gave her that crazy-mad first name), she reads the mighty dramatic distillation: “To upset the status quo, Lysistrata convinces the women of Athens to withhold sexual privileges [nervous giggle] from their husbands and lovers.” Well, quicker than you can say “public domain premise,” Lyssie J. convinces her cheerleader girlfriends Myrrhine, Lampito, and Cleonice to “Change The World.”
“Have mercy, good God, we got a sex jihad” intones our narrator, Hetaira. “Let see what’s goin’ down, down on the quad!” The plan is action. In “No More Giving It Up,” following Robin’s poetry-slam lead, Lyssie says there’s no more sweet lovin’ for Mick. Cleonice says there’s no more amore for ‘Uardo. Lampito takes the chicka-chicka-boom-boom away from Tyllus and Myrrhine denies Cinesias his “‘ho.” Only Harold is saved the denial humiliation. So there are benefits to being single after all.
Things are changing! Lyssie is having an influence on her world. Xander the once progressive blogger arrives in full Greco-Roman uniform ready to be a Spartan mascot. The costume, it would seem, was left over from the Drama Department’s stage production of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” “But wasn’t that a movie?” asks Lyssie. The ever-wise Xander opines, “The best theater is always a movie first. That way the audience doesn’t have to worry about being surprised.”
Was it Sir Isaac Newton or Kim Kardashian who said “For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction?” Definitely sounds more like Kim. Well, as you can imagine, back in the locker room, the guys are in an uproar, but Mick convinces them to ignore the girls and their silly threats and to “Lay Low.” That means another basketball loss, only this one is on purpose.
Realizing they need to change their strategy, the girls decide to get the advice off an expert on how to handle men. With the aid of Siri, they find Madam Hetaira at the Eros Motor Lodge and she suggests that the girls be teases. “Can we really be teases?” the girls ask innocently. “You’re Cheerleaders. Hello?!” is Hetaira’s wise reply. She teaches them the joys of saying “I Don’t Think So.” In a dance break, the girls make it ALL sexy for the guys, who are promptly driven nutso.
With the guys riled up, Mick regroups and convinces the team to follow his lead. When the girls show up in real cheerleader uniforms before the second-to-last game, Mick delivers the final ultimatum - either the girls drop their act or the guys will be forced to break up with them. The battle is on. Despite some extra sexy cheers, the boys manage not to be swayed and lose the game easily (“You Go Your Way”).
The girls are now near mutiny. To add salt to the wound, the boys announce that since they are broken up, they are off to Eros Motor Lodge. And that, it would seem, is the straw that broke the entitled Generation Y’s backs. Myrrhine swears revenge on Cinesias. Everyone turns on Lysistrata. How dare she care and upset their perfect lives? Alone, Lysistrata contemplates her next move in “Where Am I Now?”
Act Two starts with Hetaira reminding us that, though we think we’ve been watching a sex battle, what we’re really watching is love blossoming in the most unlikely places (“Writing On The Wall”).
Alone in the gym, Lysistrata is visited by Xander, still fighting strong for the cause. He (along with an unseen Hetaira) convinces Lyssie to “Hold On” and keep fighting for her cause. By the end, they kiss, and well... as the discreet love to say when discussing their exploits, “One thing just leads to another.”
Meanwhile, at the Eros Motor Lodge, Mick, Cinesias and ‘Uardo are ready to meet some ladies for some rented fun. Well, this being the kind show it just wants to be, no one winds up lucky, just wiser. Mick and ‘Uardo quickly run away and Cinesias soon finds the ‘ho’ he’s always wanted in Tiffany, one of the Eros girls who is more than he bargained for. Tiffany is actually Myrrhine in disguise, inflicting her revenge (“Don’t Judge A Book”).
That night at the quad, it is safe to say all relationships are as crazy as can be. In “Right Now (Operetta),” love in all its frustrating realness is taking center stage. Lysistrata and Xander realize they have feelings for one another, and Mick, having received some misinformation, goes for one final battle in the war of sexes. All others swirl in the unsettled air.
Following up on his plan to win the war, Mick is ripe to seduce Robin in his dorm room. However, things do not go according to plan. She awakens something in him by treating him with respect and challenging him to be a better person. It all happens “When She Smiles.”
As is the case with everyone who has ever tried to make a difference in the world, at some point it’s all too much. Lysistrata decides it’s time to move on to another college. She goes back to Hetaira to say goodbye; Hetaira implores her to “Hold On (Reprise).”
In “The Final Game,” the guys all realize what’s been missing from their lives: love and passion. They plan to win for the first time. Do they win? Do the couples all wind up in love and in unexpected groupings? Does Lysistrata return and save the day in an unbelievable way? Are we all a tiny bit wiser at the end? Well, this being a musical comedy, I’d say the odds are tipped in our favor. But I can say, without a spoiler alert, that there is a toga party at the end, with everyone looking very ancient, Grecian and happy (“Give It Up!”).
– Douglas Carter Beane