It was recently reported that Greek tragedy is making a comeback on stages in London and New York. The Mad Horse Theatre Company has varied that trend just a little in reaching back for a classic Greek comedy for the troupe’s first production of its 30th season.

Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata” has survived millennia on the strength of its comedy and its universal themes. Consistent with some recent productions, director Reba Short has focused her adaptation around its feminist implications while still emphasizing the wild humor.

The story concerns a revolt led by the title character, who cleverly devises a plot to convince the women of Athens and Sparta to withhold sex from their warrior husbands until the men agree to make peace (to hedge their bet, the women also seize the treasury). Though the women are skeptical, Lysistrata makes a compelling case that they can succeed if they stay strong until a treaty is signed.

With some over-the-top portrayals, the fun is definitely in getting there in this production, as the men become increasingly desperate and the women try to stay true to their goal. Short allows things at times to get just this side of totally wacky as the broad physical comedy and loud, bawdy verbal humor has performers vamping and writhing in confrontation. The frenetic action did occasionally render lines inaudible at Friday’s performance.

Janice Gardner plays the strident Lysistrata, who scolds and cajoles her female co-conspirators to keep them in line. She’s a strong presence throughout and even gets to provide an updated epilogue.

Shannon Campbell has a lot of fun as Kleonike, combining her penetrating voice with strong comic instincts to good effect in several scenes. Allison McCall, as Myrrhine, stands out in a well-crafted scene of delayed fulfillment as her husband, played by Mark Rubin, begs for relief.

Four-member choruses of men and women advance on and retreat from one another in nicely choreographed stage action that turns up the level of farce.

Burke Brimmer has a nice turn as a public official who views the women scornfully before being abducted by some Grecian amazons. Brent Askari and Jeffrey Charles Day, as the Spartan leaders, along with Brimmer and Rubin as their Athenian counterparts, are eventually brought to their knees before Marie Stewart Harmon, representing a shapely Reconciliation.

The set design by Stacey Koloski is minimal, with the exception of a rather suggestive monolith, and the costumes by Anna Halloran range from neo-period robes to biker-babe leather. Some contemporary instrumental music powers a few scenes in the intimate three-quarters-in-the-round performance space.

Peace and harmony appear to prevail, though there’s some disquieting talk of a common Persian enemy at the close.

Aristophanes may have been more intent on making the men look silly, but with a little help from director Short’s contemporary sensibility, the women come out looking extra good in this take on a classic.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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