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Review: The Frogs

Genesius Guild has turned a well-worn page with its current production of “The Frogs” in that it is the first time in the Guild’s long history that the zany rewrite of one of the surviving comedies of Aristophanes has not been written by founder, Don Wooten. And as much as I love Don and Genesius Guild I have to admit that it is time to let those old scripts be archived.

The Greek comedy at Genesius Guild has always been a venting of the pressure cooker of producing two full Shakespearean plays and a Greek tragedy under excruciating conditions of heat, humidity, mosquitoes, etc., etc., etc. It’s a time when convention is thrown to the wind and all stops are let out. Actors get to wear their glasses, watches and athletic shoes and pure silliness reigns via song and dance with liberal doses of ridicule of people and institutions.

Bravely taking up the monumental challenge are Calvin Vo and T Green, who also directed this show. Their effort has resulted in a highly entertaining and raucously funny show that excruciatingly just missed the brass ring by a nano-meter. Aristophanes was infamous for his acerbic criticism of politics, politicians and society in general – nothing and no one escaped the skewer of his wit – and it actually ended him up in court on charges of slander on more than one occasion. Vo and Green instead walked their rendition down a polite primrose path of safety rather than plunging down a perilous passageway to punditry. To bypass that aspect of Aristophanes sells him short.

Bear in mind that my perspective here is that of a long time veteran of Genesius Guild. A newcomer will find this show hilarious and this interpretation more closely adheres to the original script and tells the tale more coherently.

Max Roberts as Dionysus, the demigod who misses the now dead playwright, Euripides, and who travels to Hades along with his faithful servant, Xanthius (played by Jacob Lund) is a delight to watch. His stage presence and alacrity were superb, even acknowledging the annoyance of a train going through during one of his scenes.

Authors Vo and Green also performed – apparently sharing the role of CHERon (as in the songstress, Cher). Green took on the role at Sunday’s show and was nothing short of hysterical.

New songs were introduced giving the show a fresh reboot with witty lyrics set to more contemporary music and the uneven warbling made them all the more fun. My favorite was performed by the frogs, played by Katie Phillips, Haley Wooley, and Jeremy Mahr, set to the boot scootin’ tune of Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places.”

So, if you are a loyal follower of Genesius Guild, put away your expectations and open up new vistas of what the Greek comedies can be. If you’re a newcomer to the Guild, be prepared for about an hour’s worth of a roaring good time.

Aristophanes’ “The Frogs,” continues August 6th and 7th at Lincoln Park in Rock Island at 7:00pm.