Saturday, September 30, 2017

Get Outta Thebes

Think how awful it must have been to be sexually repressed.

With Hugh Hefner going to that great Playboy Lounge in the sky, it's gotten me and everyone else debating his cultural contributions. Only a couple of years ago, when Hef decided to stop using nudes in the magazine, I'd ruminated on and dissected an old issue of Playboy, here.

Yes, of course, I can't help but resent his objectification of my people but I can also appreciate how he acclimated America to the startling notion that nice girls wanted sex, too, and frankly, that news flash was overdue.

But as to that malarkey I read about him founding a sex empire because his first wife cheated on him and he wanted to indulge his inner 15-year old, well, I'm not sold yet.

I'd be the first to acknowledge that men will be men and if that sounds sexist, allow me to point out that as far back as 411 BC, playwrights were writing plays about what idiots men are.

As recently as this evening, a favorite girlfriend was sitting on my balcony giving me an earful about her man and how clueless he can be. How he see-saws from sweet to unkind and from accommodating to oblivious. How resistant to communication he can be.

And yet to a woman, communication is like breathing, as effortless as it is necessary to live.

My solution was to lead her to Rapp Session for a little seafood therapy. Sometimes it's just what a woman needs to feel better about herself and her love life.

Over wine and orgeat lemonade, we nibbled on smoked bluefish spread and Saltines, all the while discussing our fondness for smoked fish, any fish. When I pointed out that I thought its appeal was that it involves the smoking of something that lives in a world with no fire, my friend thought I was profound, or at the least, quite clever.

Because there is no better food to stimulate talk of relationships than oysters, we got a dozen Old Saltes. When my friend went to douse hers in horseradish, I insisted she eat a few with just a squirt of lemon first.

Seeing the expression on her face after that first oyster told me exactly what she was experiencing. With eyes closed and that oyster going down, it's like an ocean breeze is blowing through your brain and all you can hear is surf. It's immersive.

We were taking such delight in everything that our server came over to applaud our indulgences, understanding exactly why our eyes were rolling back in our heads.

Such is the power of an Old Salte...or twelve.

Our final course was octopus and shrimp in olives, cilantro and olive oil, once again with Saltines (come on, it is an oyster saloon) and it made me want to weep for the passing of summer and absence of nearby seaside cafes in which to eat something so delightful.

All of which was mere prelude to walking two blocks to the Gottwald Theater to see Quill Theater's production of "Lysistrata."

If we were going to spend the evening trying to figure out how the male brain works, certainly Aristophanes' classic comedy about women withholding sex from their husbands and lovers to make them stop warring with each other was just the mental floss we needed to put things in historical perspective.

The negative reaction of the Athenian and Spartan women to Lysistrata's suggestion to deny booty to their mates - "Are you all so driven by your desires?" - pretty much summed up Hef's theory of womanhood: all kinds of women like sex.

Sisters, be strong, keep your legs closed!
Don't fornicate, masturbate!

Despite the play's 2500 year provenance, director James Ricks had dropped in nuggets of dialog to keep it current ("I alone can fix this! I have a very big brain") and laugh-out-loud funny to the audience.

Grey Garrett as Lysistrata came across as the one woman who could set aside her horniness for the sake of progress and peace, even if she was constantly reminding the other women why this was important.

It's because we want them that we can't let ourselves have them!

Once the warriors return from battle and sex is being denied them, it's inevitable that they get a bit, er, needy. Eventually, so needy that all the warriors are walking around onstage with exaggerated hard-ons and pleading faces.

This is where things got micro and the comedy within a comedy began. Apparently not every theater-goer can handle watching men with protruding body parts.

Watching the scene unfold, I spotted an older man in the front row who looked so completely uncomfortable with what was happening onstage that he couldn't look at any of the men in an aroused state. His eyes were fixed in a different direction and his jaw looked clenched, as if he was witnessing pornography. Or constipated.

And it wasn't just male parts that disturbed him because when Terrie Elam came out topless and stood on a pedestal with her arms out, he looked positively apoplectic. His wife looked like she knew he was unhappy, but also like she was enjoying the female-centric story in a way he was not.

How do you make it to 2017 and still be so disturbed by hard-ons and bare boobs? Or how do you come to a Greek play about women not putting out and not expect some bawdy humor and boob grabbing?

There were countless times when a line of dialog mirrored something my girlfriend had mentioned earlier about her relationship, so there was much nudging and frequent knowing looks passing between us.

Life imitates art.

The point of Aristophanes' play was clear when a couple started compromising: he was willing to stop being cruel to her if she was willing to stop being a harpie (Can you say "The Taming of the Shrew?").

Bam, relationship and sexual bliss. If only it were that easy.

You could also say that the moral is that men have changed very little since 411 BC and women need to hone their compromising skills to make the best of it because men are always going to be men.

Seems to me Hef spent a lifetime taking advantage of that, and while wearing pajamas, too. He can be faulted for many things, but I think he was doing it for guys like that one in the first row.

Thanks, Lysistrata, for reminding us that we have the girl power. Now can we work on that communication thing?

No comments:

Post a Comment