Hades or Bust!
An "interview" with Aristophanes about the Stephen Sondheim-Burt Shevelove-Nathan Lane musical based on his play The Frogs.
ARISTOPHANES: Hallo! you there, you deadman, are you willing to carry down our little traps to Hades?
THEATERMANIA: Hey, Aristophanes. There seems to be a little confusion. I'm here to interview you about the Lincoln Center Theater production of The Frogs.
A: Pay me two drachmas, or it's no use talking.
TM: That's a little unethical, don't you think?
A: One and a half.
TM: Well, okay. So, how do you feel about Nathan Lane freely adapting your script?
A: O hang the fellow!
He thought to scare me off,
The jealous dog, knowing my plucky ways.
TM: In his defense, you haven't actually seen the production yet. Besides, wouldn't you say that imitation is the highest form of flattery?
A: I'll tell you by-and-by
My own poetic worth and claims;
But first of all I'll try
To show how this portentous quack
Beguiled the silly fools.
TM: Listen, I'll admit that Lane doesn't have much experience as a writer, but you can't call Stephen Sondheim a "portentous quack!"
A: Well, he's the sole
Good thing remaining, if even he is good.
For even of that I'm not exactly certain.
TM: How can you say that? Don't you agree that Sweeney Todd and Assassins are terrific shows?
A: Tales of vice
The sacred poet should hide from view,
Nor ever exhibit and blazon forth
On the public stage to the public ken.
TM: What about how Sondheim and another of his Frogs collaborators, Burt Shevelove, paid homage to the comedies of the Roman Plautus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum?
A: A bright idea.
I'faith, I'm nowise indisposed for that.
TM: What advice would you give to writers who would adapt your plays?
A: On then, wrangle in every way,
Argue, battle, be flayed and flay,
Old and new from your stores display,
Yea, and strive with venturesome daring
Something subtle and neat to say.
TM: And to the actors?
A: Sing if ever ye sang of yore,
When in sunny and glorious days
Through the rushes and marsh-flags springing.
TM: Will you attend The Frogs on opening night, and do you plan to bring a date?
A: I will; and thus I'll do it.
I'll choose the man in whom my soul delights.
TM: Who's it going to be?
A: My choice is-
TM: I'll be going by myself.
A: O you're jesting,
I shall not let you off: there's such a lovely
Flute-girl all ready, and we've two or three
Young budding virgins, freshly tired and trimmed.
TM: Thanks! By the way, have you heard that the Aquila Theatre is planning to present a musical adaptation of another of your comedies, The Clouds?
A: Nay, that's too much.
TM: But weren't most of your comedies sung anyway?
A: That is right, Mr. Busybody, right!
For the Muses of the lyre love us well;
And hornfoot Pan who plays
On the pipe his jocund lays;
And Apollo, Harper bright,
On our Chorus takes delight;
For the strong reed's sake
Which I grow within my lake
To be girdled in his lyre's deep shell.
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax.