Stage Review: Aristophanes’ Peace

peaceWhen you go to watch a performance at the Getty Villa, you don’t expect to see a mountain of garbage in the center of the stage, nor have the play opened by a man dressed in a mariachi costume with a giant foam Dodgers finger on one hand. Performances of Greek comedies are not usually filled with scatological humor or rapid-fire sexual innuendos that would make even the Bard blush. However, this is exactly the kind of experience the theater group Culture Clash wants you to have. You can see a traditional interpretation of Aristophanes’ play another time, so for now sit back and listen to some fart jokes.

The play’s title is Peace, but it might as well be Shit, Weed, and Peace, because that more accurately describes the major themes of the play in order of emphasis and importance. The story follows Ty Dye (John Fleck), a crazed pot farmer who, having grown sick of the constant wars plaguing the world, decides to travel to the top of Mount Olympus in search of the goddess Peace. Riding on the back of a gigantic dung beetle, Ty Dye reaches the heavens only to hear from the very flamboyant god, Hermes (or rather, Hermés), that Peace has been captured and is being kept away from humanity in a cave by Mars, the god of War. Enter Mars, looking not unlike an oversized Marvin the Martian wearing an Army officer’s uniform emblazoned with a swastika and sheriff’s badge. Now Ty Dye must free Peace from War’s evil clutches with the help of some Guatemalan gardeners (writers Montoya, Salinas, and Siguenza), a feisty Malibu housewife-cum-Greek chorus leader (Amy Hill), and a trio of Mariachi ladies (Las Colibrí).

While “Peace” never ceases to entertain, the show’s writers leave no pun, poop joke, sexual reference, or curse word unused and this often leads to guffaws but not infrequently leaves you wondering what it’s all about. Where this play has plenty of opportunities to insert frank political commentary into this adaptation, “Peace” frequently gets mired in its own cleverness and at times nearly forsakes its purpose. It isn’t until the play’s end that the true message of “Peace” reasserts itself on stage, and by then it seems almost a heavy-handed afterthought. If you want catharsis you may be out of luck, but if you want a case of the warm fuzzies, this play’s end won’t disappoint.

The fact is that Culture Clash knows how to make theater fun, and for that they deserve a great deal of praise. “Peace” is a truly unconventional and raucous take on an ancient play that may fall short of inspirational but hits its comic mark.

Aristophanes’ Peace (official website)
Updated / Performed by Culture Clash
Thursdays, Friday, and Saturdays at 8pm
The Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater at the Getty Villa