Lysistrata, Side Project, and Bowlscrapers to Skyscrapers: Business as Usual, Side Project, at the Side Studio. Adam Webster in his new 70-minute adaptation of Lysistrata pays little attention to Aristophanes' exploration of sexual politics and indictment of war. But he wholeheartedly embraces the comedy inherent in this story of Greek women withholding sex until their men agree to end a ten-year battle.
Director John Shaterian delivers a broad farce complete with lewd humor, pratfalls, and bold double entendres. And while some of the actors overplay the silliness, Vayram Nyadroh's Lysistrata is intelligently enthusiastic rather than strident, and Dave Taylor's blustering Magistrate hits just the right note of arrogant incompetence. Chris Genebach is entertaining as a Rocky Balboa-esque Cinesias pining for the pert, loopy Myrrhine (Jennifer Marschand in a sparkling performance).
The biggest hindrance to this production is the small Side Studio stage, which many actors share at times, often haphazardly. Careful attention to slapstick comedy and pop-culture references doesn't make up for the show's overall aimlessness.
Bowlscrapers to Skyscrapers: Business as Usual fares better in the small space. Webster efficiently directs this sketch-comedy revue, which also benefits from Greg Hill's buoyant music choices. The show's 19 bits offer smart social commentary on the dark underbelly of corporate culture, among other things. Not all the punch lines have the same force, but the jokes are well written and the pieces usually end on a high note. "Local Travelers" features a tourist couple content to take pictures against the backdrop of travel posters. In "FDR" the president fights to keep a long list of worries in his speech while his staff lobbies for the simple "fear itself" ending. And in "Eldercare Payment Facilitator," the evening's funniest sketch, someone is on hand to help the elderly locate their change and determine that the bill is accurate in a grocery store checkout line.
Bowlscrapers offers a funny 90 minutes, but the show would be even stronger if the entire ensemble shared Jeff Madden, Rasika Mathur, and Alexandra Cwajbaum's ability to truly inhabit their characters even in brief scenes.