Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews

Culture Clash in Aristophanes’ Peace – Los Angeles Theater Review




picture - PeaceTheater Review

by Harvey Perr

published September 11, 2009


Culture Clash in Aristophanes’ Peace

now playing in Los Angeles at the Getty Villa

through October 3


What could be better than spending a balmy night under the stars at the mock-up of a Greek amphitheater they’ve built at the Getty Villa in Malibu watching a Greek play?

Especially when that play, Peace, written in 421 B.C. by the great satirist Aristophanes,

reminds us that nothing much has changed since it was written. It may have been the Peloponnesian War that was on  the comic mind of good old Aristophanes, but you can’t avoid the connections to any other war, including the two we are personally involved in right now. Just listen to the plot. The god War has imprisoned the goddess Peace and her handmaidens.  And a trio of slaves set out with their master Trygaeus to rescue her despite the attempts of all those who are profiting from the war (and want it to continue) to stop them. It might, in fact, be very interesting to see the play as it was originally written and to recall that, even in 421 B.C., a dire situation could be treated with hearty humor, that a desperate search for Peace could become a merry lark, and that one method of healing, as War comes to its end, is laughter.


But what we’re under the stars with in Malibu these days is a version created by that wildly and dementedly incorrigible group of comic hot shots known as Culture Class. Oh, the basic plot is still there and you’ll have no trouble maneuvering through an ancient Greece – this being a global village, after all – which is not too far from Silver Lake. And Malibu and Glendale are just a stone’s throw from Athens. And, close enough to Aristophanes in spirit if not to the letter, you might recognize the Marx Brothers in there somewhere. And penis balloons proudly positioned underneath the togas. And pointed political references to Proposition 8, which make up in earnestness what they lack in nuance. Some of it hits the mark and is genuinely hilarious but most of it is, I’m sorry to say, little more than silly. There’s a buoyancy to it, even at its silliest, however. And a crudeness that could be – if such a suggestion could be made, since crudeness is the soul of their method – even more scabrous and a lot sharper-edged.


picture - Culture ClashCulture Clash – a.k.a. Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza – have added two performance artists – John Fleck and Amy Hill – to the theatrical stewpot this time, but, to tell the truth, they’ve written (in collaboration with John Glore) the best parts for themselves. Siguenza’s extravagantly gay Hermes is a riotous standout.  And, if that’s Salinas under that Harpo wig, he is pitch-perfect. The best sight gag of the evening, and it comes fairly early, is of John Fleck (as a tie-dyed Trygaeus) ascending a stairway sitting aloft a dung-beetle. And the low-cost makeshift follow-up is a delicious send-up of all that flying that gets done in a certain Disney musical.


And, how can you leave a theater, the night still balmy, not feeling disarmed, by a show that offers the promise of Paradise led by a beautifully innocent child? Peace, at last!


harveyperr @


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