Whose lie is it anyway? The filth and the fury

December 10, 2008 at 11:10 pm (Culture, Politics) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Torn, I am. Conflicting feelings boil in me, and one moment I’d like the law to grab one of those little oversexed tweens and shove him (or her) in solitary for a couple of hours; and the next I wonder how far I could throw an Amstel bottle filled with gasoline, and whether it would reach the windows of Parliament.

I felt like spitting when I saw Nikitas Kaklamanis, the Mayor of Athens, tonight posing for a photo-op in front of the newly lit up Dromeas (The Runner) sculpture – less than a mile from Syntagma metro station, which was closed due to yet more tear gas-tinged episodes at the very moment he was admiring the ugly piece of shiny glass. What did they think? That the blue lights would somehow make the view from the Hilton balconies prettier? That if we ignore them, they’ll run out of beer bottles to make Molotovs and go home?

This won’t just extinguish itself. I don’t understand why they haven’t realized it yet. Um, Excuse me? New Democracy? (What a joke for a name.) I’m so sorry that you happened to be in government at this time – I truly feel for you, you Emo Administration, that we have the Nth scandal on your watch – but it is your watch, and you have to do something. Resign, if you want, but DO SOMETHING. Show your damn face. Don’t fly off to Brussels tomorrow, you chicken. And just so you don’t think you’ll wake up and it will all have gone away, there are 21 events planned for tomorrow, http://athens.indymedia.org/ informs us.

Then again, I felt even more disgusted when I read that when the Dean of Thessaloniki’s Law School entered his offices, protected from armed forced by the blessing of asylum – only to find them completely vandalized and robbed. Computers, phones, paperwork, books – I saw fires Monday night inside Athens Polytechnic, but I tried to convince myself they were being careful and respectful.  Eh, no. No. No, this is not why university asylum is enshrined in law – it is utter heresy to vandalize the place that gives you such shelter.

And just when I’ve had enough of seeing looting and mindless destruction, and I veer all authoritarian – that’s when I read this. http://www.skai.gr/master_story.php?id=103521

Firstly, Rambo picks Alexis Kougias to represent him. The sleaziest, dirtiest, most attention-seeking lawyer of the nation. Smooth move, Ex-Lax. He then goes on to say what a proper copper he is, and what a spoiled little rich boy Alex and his hooligan ilk are – and does not ever, at any point express sorrow that the boy died by his trigger hand. Even if it was a damn ricochet, as you testify, and even if you didn’t notice a bloody body fall at your feet as you walked away – how can you not be sorry? How?

And visions of burning police stations dance all through my head. (To the tune of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” no less.)

Fuck this. I’m going to go watch Euripides’ “Bacchae” at Poreia Theater. 3-5 Trikorof Street, off 3 September Street, right next to Victoria Station. It’s right next to the Polytechnic’s bacchanals of fury. And I’ve just got word that they are heroically playing on for anyone who cares to come on over. Let’s all go. Wear a scarf, bring some vaseline just in case, leave your television sets and your blogs, and let’s all go downtown. Let’s drink beers on the sidewalks and watch. If there are more of us than there are cops and vandals then something may happen. Or not. But waiting passively for the next corrupt and inept government, that we ourselves vote in, to come along and then whine about them is really no answer.

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Guns of Tzavella

December 9, 2008 at 12:26 am (Culture, music, Politics) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I love this city fiercely. Almost protectively. When something wonderful happens, my chest feels like it may burst from pride. I wanted my next blogpost to be about the Beggars’ Operas. I truly did. It was one of those times where my love for Athens and Athenian culture simply surges with joy.  I was composing the post in my head after their incredible performance of Verdi’s  ‘Il Trovatore” at the Bios warehouse venue a few days ago. Just a bunch of extremely talented twenty and thirty-somethings dressed in everyday clothes singing with expression and pathos, just inches away from the audience. The orchestra was comprised of an accordion, guitar, piano, trumpet, and cymbals – and still managed to convey the suspenseful lyricism of Verdi’s score. I cried like a fool from Miserere onwards.

But right now, I just don’t feel like writing about art. Or joy. Or love.

On Saturday, December 6, 2008, I unwittingly went for a peek on the wild side after taking Jenny to see Melted Butter.  At first, I couldn’t understand why Patision Avenue and Amerikis Square were so jam-packed at midnight. Grumbling, I decided to cut through the law courts and Exharxia to get over to Gazi – I knew she’d love K44 club over by the railroad tracks. We entered Spirou Trikoupi at approximately half-past midnight – little did we know that, by then, Exharxia had turned into a full-blown war zone since the 9:15 in-cold-blood shooting of a 15-year-old by the police.

I pointed to the neo-classical building at number 34. “See, Jenny? That’s where I spent four years of my life! Isn’t it pretty?” Jenny was not paying attention. She was gazing in horror in front of us. At the corner of Tossitsa and  Spirou Trikoupi three dumpsters were blazing. The heavy scent of tear gas was in the air. Jenny’s friend stated firmly that she was scared and did not want to go any further.

Well. I couldn’t exactly tell to get out of my car and walk back to Ampelokipous, now, could I? I slowly wove my way around the burning dumpsters in order to check out what was going on, regretfully turning back towards civilization – but not before a bunch of police in riot gear (who ignored both the flaming roadblocks and a few youths breaking a car about 50 yards away) sneered at me, “Run girlie, run!”

Rage.

Rage at the smarmy, arrogant bastards, and rage at myself, because I just drove on, tires squealing. I am a Coward. You just shot a boy, and you have the gall to catcall? Is what I did not say. Why didn’t I get out of the car and do… something? Coward.

Rage at the lying cops who insisted that they shot warning bullets in the air because they were surrounded by thirty rock-throwing anarchists. Thankfully, the cops were so stupid as to shoot Andreas Alexandros Grigoropoulos at point blank range at the corner of Tzavella and Messologhiou Streets, which is filled with cafes. Eyewitness accounts relate that after a verbal scuffle between the patrolling cops and a few youths, the cops left, parked their car – then walked back to find the boys and coolly aim at Alex’s chest.

Rage at Anthee Carassava, correspondent for the New York Times, who sticks so religiously to government press releases it’s just plain disgusting. It is now the third day and she won’t even type the dead boy’s name because the government “hasn’t officially released his name yet.”

Really? What a journalist. You remind me of the 1972 White House press corps. By the way ma’am, in case you’re interested, Andreas Alexandros Grigoropoulous’s funeral is tomorrow at 3pm, at Palaio Faliro.

Also, Ms. Carassava, you shold know better than to call Exharxia an “unruly haven of left-wing extremists.” If you really lived here you would know that this is a lively neighborhood filled with cafes, stores, theaters, bars, houses, supermarkets, minimarkets, pharmacies, boutiques, grannies, mothers, junkies, kids, artists – in short, it is a small, cozy microcosm of Athens itself. I have been going out (and practically living there for a while) since I was fifteen and have never, ever felt threatened in the neighborhood at any hour of the night, my car has never been burned, and so on. Is my life that charmed? I think not.

As an ugly cynicism sets in twenty-four hours later, I am glad that mayhem is going on in Trikala, Patra, Chania, Thessaloniki – even Berlin and London ex-pats are doing their share. I am also glad that if someone had to die, then it’s good he was the underage son of a bank manager. Perhaps now justice just might be served. Perhaps the media will now have to rethink their easy labeling of Exharxia as an anarchist ghetto. Perhaps the issue of police brutality in Greece will finally be addressed. As a http://www.skai.gr commentary noted yesterday, Exarxia is everywhere. Unrest and dissatisfaction are everywhere. Cops routinely hit protesters with the hard handle of their rubber baton. Wake up.

But that is beside the point right now. I just came back from the “marches” that were arranged by the Coalition of the Left and the Communist Party.  And now I feel like a fool squared. My idealism and naivete will be my undoing – they have already plunged me into a deep depression.

I had been itching to march since Saturday night, and on Monday I got my chance, as the riots showed no sign of abating – every day more protests and riots were mushrooming all over the country. I was so proud of all the school-age children that protested so peacefully this morning.

So I went to protest myself. And I saw what I did not want to believe.

The fact is, these self-styled anarchists have no ideology whatsoever. It’s not that they mistake anarchy for something else – there is nothing else. They just desire a pretty label for random violence. They don’t actually believe in anything. Apart from fighting and destroying for the hell of it. Supposedly they are anti-establishment.

If so, then they are also mentally challenged.

The killing of an under-age kid by a police officer is the best Christmas present an anti-establishment type can hope for. Apart from Parliament sinking into the ground during a plenary session, I can’t think of anything better. It is cold, hard evidence that the Man is out to get you – with eyewitnesses.

And yet.

Tonight, they burned all of Panepistimiou Street – while the other “peaceful” marchers cheered every Molotov cocktail and rock that was thrown into a bank window. The mania with which they attacked streetlights, bus stops and small shops was almost a wonder to look at. There were no cops, and no provocation. It seemed like the externalized frustration of a would-be rapist who chickens out at the last minute – and then runs over a dog.  It certainly did not seem like they wanted vengeance for the horrific shooting of an unarmed boy.

The atmosphere at the march was heavy, confused. No one knew what to shout, or where to go. I took lots of fuzzy photos. We were surrounded by flaming dumpsters at every turn – there was no way out in case the police attacked. The cops were warily aware of this – they flooded us with tear gas when we got too close, but made no moves to stop the destruction. Possibly they were scared shitless at making another “mistake” – but honestly, you don’t have to shoot someone in the chest to stop him setting fire to an apartment building. There must be a middle way. I’m sure that is part of police training somewhere on this planet.

After running to safety during a brief scuffle with fire and tear gas in Omirou Street, I persuaded Tina to go to Exarxia before we headed home. I just couldn’t leave without going to my favorite square in the city, and damn the baby guerrillas allegedly hiding with Molotovs in narrow streets.

I almost wished there was fighting when we got there. Not even a token oblivious junkie was lounging on the empty benches. It was dark, dirty and desolate. Everything still standing was shuttered close. We picked our way through shards of glass, rubble, extinguished fires and black car-shells. A few rioters hung out nervously near the university gates, ready to bolt back inside at the first sign of trouble.

Teenage looters giggled as they lugged boxes from the destroyed Plaisio Shop. Surreally, I could see a bunch of riot police gazing at them from a safe distance and doing nothing. I was nearly in tears by the time we drank a beer in front of the Archaelogical Museum – we bought it from the only newsstand open within a 2-mile radius, which was doing brisk business with the rioters barred up inside Athens Polytechnic.

And now? The riots are spreading to Athenian suburbs that have never seen such random violence before. And instead of the people raging against murdering police officers (and the reasons why they are so arrogant, rude, undertrained and underpaid) – they demand justice from the anarchists who have gaily burned their livelihoods.

Way to go, guys. And a merry martial law Christmas to you.

and R. I. P. Alex. (1993-2008)

Permalink 2 Comments

Bummertime Blues in the Vienna Woods

November 30, 2008 at 2:42 pm (Acting, Culture, music, Theater) (, , , , , , )

Some days it’s just a bummer being sentient.

I feel heartless packing my tupperware lunch while hostages are dying in Mumbai, but what are am I supposed to do, starve? It’s quite surreal watching CNN’s panic-driven coverage and calmly cutting up little squares of roast beef in my serene kitchen.  I feel queasy, because it’s obvious that the networks had been praying to Satan for such a newsworthy story; amidst their anxiousness for their fellow-reporters, glee – get cameras! stories! i-reporters! should we use the holograms again??? – is oozing from every Max Factor-ed pore.  I don’t know what caused me to pull over on the highway on the way home, puking my tupperware lunch 50m from the Kifisia exit, but the nausea had been steadily building all day, and has carried on through my weekend.

Nausea with the play I saw last night, and nausea at the sickness of modern consumerist society, that left a Wal-Mart employee trampled to death in Long Island, and two men dead by their own hand in Southern California. Why does Wal-Mart end up being blamed for not having enough store security? For pity’s sake, what are we? Animals that need herding? Can we not live peacefully without the fear of the whip?

Yes, the credit crunch>recession>New Depression has left many of us much worse off, but can a simple sale at a store cause such pandemonium that people would claw and flatten their fellow beings to get a three dollar DVD or ten cent tomato? How can we act this way? In California, two fearsome hausfraus had brought along their gun-packing escorts to the Black Friday Sale, who actually shot each other in bizarre knightly fashion, after the ladies fought over some frivolous discount item.  I am reminded of Huxley’s Savage, quoting excitedly “O brave new world that has such people in it!”  And what a bummer that brave new world turned out to be.

Perhaps misanthrope Odon von Horvath was right all along. Truly, I have never felt so sickened by a play in my life. On the one, more inconsequential level, the performance Tales from the Vienna Woods proved that the more A-list talent you hire, the worse a show will be. All  my indie favorites (now playing at the National Theatre, thanks to the demise of Nikos Kourkoulos) were there, hamming it up in an obscene parody of themselves. There was my beloved Nikos Kouris, spitting freely and yelling as he tried gamely to support his nasty, cardboard-cut-out character. Aggeliki Papoulia gazed as wide-eyed, trembly-voiced and knobbly-kneed as ever, as she tried to ignore the play she was in.  Themis Bazaka and Akyllas Karazisis had decided between themselves that they would compete for alpha dog status in a shouting match, overpowering even the amazingly strong lungs of wizened Titika Sarigouli.

At first I was confused. I couldn’t understand why director Yiannis Chouvardas would want to mock the genre of big, ensemble musicals in such a mean-spirited way. I mean, Ok, you’ve got the National Theatre, already, it’s yours. Only experimental performances from now on — must you rub it in the face of more mainstream theater-goers? They love the theater, too. We need them to keep coming and paying tickets for our shows, or else we might as well set up shop in our backyard, playing only for ourselves, the self-satisfied, arugula-chomping elitist crowd.  I believe that the National Theatre of any country is obliged to offer fare for all tastes — the name says it all. National. Last night, the curtain went up and we saw a set that could be the backdrop for Guys and Dolls — and were then forced to watch every stock character (the butcher, toymaker, granny, vamp, etc.) turn into horrible, crooked caricatures.

Yet, as the hours (3 of them) wore on, I realized that the course jokes, exaggerated acting, and endless Austrian ditties (one was played at least 9 times — I was amazed at Kat’s self-control) were all trying to cover up what a bad play this actually is. It is not a window into pre-Anschluss Austria, it is a portait of vulgar, nasty, loud, idiotic louts who sing, drink beer and get on with their miserable lives. Von Horvath’s goal, according to the program’s notes, was to “harshly rail against stupidity and lies.”  The author goes on to say that he despises stupidity and lies, and supports logic and honesty. Fine. So why is it that the only character who tries to escape from stupidity, lies and a fiancee who can’t kiss without biting, is left up Shit Creek without a paddle?

Everybody else ends up just the way they began in Act One. They have a few adventures, a few ups and downs, and that’s it. The moral of this play is, all ends well if you don’t try to be an honest person who strives for integrity. The one who does try to follow her heart becomes a single, cabaret-dancing mother – who then loses both her child and her crummy job — and ends up (with permanently sore lips) back in the arms of the fate she tried to escape. If that’s not a bummer, then I don’t know what is.

And let me just say – before I go back to reading up on nuclear fallout and measuring the miles that separate the Indian subcontinent from Greece – that people have using make-up in the theater for the past 2000 years – Mr. Chouvardas, do you think you know better?

Let us ponder. Hmm… that would an emphatic NO.

My gorgeous, Carmen-like friend Kika may be able to get away without wearing makeup, but quite a few of the others were pale, pasty, and scary — logical, with all those bright lights shining on them, non? Think of Ms. Bazaka’s age and lack of eyebrows, and then reconsider if a middle-aged vamp would even go to the window without make-up. But Chouvardas needs to be an iconoclast, so he acts accordingly — even if it is to the detriment of a show.

It’s like those Greek rappers/low-bappers the other night — Totem, DJ Moya, and Xnaria. They have these crazy insecurity complexes, and must, at all costs retain negative attitudes, so, instead of being happy at opening for Public Enemy, they told us 5 times that they’re not getting any money for this show, and rapped with rage against managers to the refrain of “What do I say? Fuck the USA!” The crowd loved it.

Now, that just drives me crazy. You wouldn’t even know what rap was, you dumb bastards, if it wasn’t for the USA. That’s where it was born, like it or not. And you’re wearing your hoodies in emulation of the rappers of that country. So just shut up. Oh, you’re angry white boys? Well, why don’t you say say Fuck Agion Oros and its dirty priests/ Fuck Pasok and Fuck Karamanlis — those are the ones damaging this country, in case you haven’t noticed.

But you don’t notice, because you’re too busy sneering at Public Enemy’s 20-year history, saying to the crowd, “Well, I would have been excited doing this 10 years ago, but nothing good has come out of that country since then.” Dude, don’t open for the legendary Public Enemy, then. Put your money where your mouth is, Monsieur Ellinaras. Some manager must have gotten you this gig — or would you have preferred he wangle your opening for Peggy Zina?

Then Public Enemy took the stage. And I boogied like it was 1989, sweaty and happy, for the next 3 hours. They were simply amazing. Uplifting as hell. Their musicians (on bass, guitar, drums, and the uber-scratching DJ Lord) were excellent, their sound hard, and they did not stop smiling and jumping around like they were still 20 years old. Chuck D and Flavor Flav’s genius lies in the way they mix their “happy” music with lyrics full of political criticism completely lacking in nastiness.

And when you show how happy you are to be on stage performing, when the love for you do is so obvious, then the audience gets in sync with you and just keeps wanting more — without being bummed out or wanting to beat anybody up after the curtain falls.

Permalink Leave a Comment

A must-see movie: Diorthosi/ Correction

August 20, 2008 at 5:26 pm (Acting, Culture, Movies) (, , , , , , )

Harsh Elegy
To Athens, with love – that howls

There are some films that offer their point of view with all the delicacy of a steamroller.
Diorthosi is not one of these films.
With the utmost subtlety, it strikes a blow at the collective Greek gut, addressing the practically taboo theme of xenophobia. The camera is a detached observer, never wagging a finger at us, and filmed so naturally as to seem almost documentary-like.
However, the poetry emanating from the shots of a cheering soccer stadium framed to seem like a holy temple, a passing Good Friday procession of the bier, or illegal immigrants fleeing the police with their wares on their backs belie their simplicity.
Nothing here is what is seems. The hero, Giorgos Simeoforidis – a clever wordplay on the actor’s actual name of Symeonidis, and the Greek word “simeoforos” (flag-bearer) – utters no more than 30 words throughout the film. His impassive Buster Keaton mask, and matter-of-fact movements manage to portray more despair and determination than any wordy monologue, yet we are at a loss to understand exactly who he is, and what he is trying to correct. That information is fed to us with all the speed of an IV drip, yet the suspense is nerve-wracking.
We walk the streets of Athens with him, streets that many of us rarely stroll down, and perhaps never have: the alleys behind the Panathinaikos Stadium, Menandrou Street, Sophocleous Street; roads that have become the mainstay of Chinese, Nigerian, Albanian, and Pakistani immigrants. He lurks, stalker-like, around a single mother and her young daughter and is himself stalked by dangerous former associates. The final scenes are harrowing, more so because in the end we do not feel catharsis. Is it being withheld purposely, or are we being told that some things can never be cleansed from our soul?
An hour to midnight, Monday night. Five people and myself watch perhaps the most important Greek movie released in the past few years, inspired by true events that occurred after a Greece-Albania soccer match. Albania emerged as the victor; a few hours later, an Albanian ended up murdered. Will Diorthosi continue to be shown so sparsely, one movie theater at a time, doomed to be as ignored as its subject?

Diorthosi [Correction]
DRAMA, 2007, 87’

Directed by Thanos Anastopoulos, starring Giorgos Symeonidis, Ornela Kapetani, Savina, Alimani, Nikos Georgakis and Buyar Alimani. (In Greek)

Won Best Screenplay, Best Actor awards at 2007 Thessaloniki Film Festival.

(I copy/ paste my review, because i am pretty sure if it makes it into the paper, it won’ t be in this form….)

Let me just add, that I put this flick in the same category as Theo Angelopoulos’s Traveling Players (O Thiasos), and that I have never, ever felt so proud at having been taught by someone than when I witnessed Giorgos Symeonidis’s indescribable performance. He is an incredible teacher, a fabulously versatile actor, and a wonderful, humble person. (I’m not pandering, here, I mean it.)

Thanos Anastopoulos is a gifted director, even the extas are amazing, every actor, every scene, just overwhelmed me with the obvious love that went into making this movie.

Also, the subject of this movie is one that really gets to me, interests me, I want to help, vre paidaki mu, and change the racism Greeks feel which breaks my heart; I have been derided for my obstinate defense of any and all immigrants, and my happiness at belonging to a multi-cultural society. To me, Athens is like London in the 1950s, or New York in the 1880s, where there was this flood of new people and cultures that took a while to assimilate, a painful while. That is the stage Athens is at.

A few years ago, an Albanian kid that went to Greek public school (i.e. his parents came here, and he was born and bred in Greece) and got the best grades among his fellow pupils. The best student in a class is the one that has the (dubious) honor of holding the (heavy) Greek flag at the Independence Day parade. You can imagine the outcry that occurred, for Greeks are not ashamed about their racism; it was a nationalist thing, how dare a foreigner (filthy or not) hold the sacred symbol of Kolokotronis? Did the heroes of the revolution die for the Albanians? And so on. And many “normal” people agreed that he should not be allowed to carry the flag.

Ah, they cleverness of the Americans! To make one love both America and their country of origin, be proud of both…I think there’s even a holiday called Heritage Day – or maybe my third grade teacher made it up.

But I am confident that in twenty years things will be so much better; That it will be normal to have mixed-race couples, and not to just see them at the yearly counter-culture Anti-Racism Festivals. This year, I worked a little bit with kindergarden kids, and they all played together happily, all the while their teachers were griping about the flux of foreign, non-Greek-speaking kids that had been unceremoniously dumped in their care by this oh-so-efficient government.

Change is blowing in the wind. Fluttering. A butterfly just flapped its wings in Tokyo. It’ll take a while, but change will come.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Valse Oedipalle

August 16, 2008 at 1:01 pm (Acting, Culture, Film, Movies, Theater) (, , , , , , , , , )

Obviously, I am no state to be watching art these days.  How else to explain the nervous giggles, acute boredom, and disbelief I have experienced in the last two shows I’ve attended? Two creations that have as much in common as Dubya and ingenuity? Either my id is acting up as a result of quitting theater and my I’d-rather-be-in-Gori-nursing-shrapnel-wounds-rather-than-auditioning attitude, or I truly did witness a double violation of the thespian craft.

Perpetrator number one was definitely more painful than the second.  A Greek dream team of actors took part in Roula Pateraki’s double Oedipus, including my second-favorite director ever, in whose theater I had just rehearsed.  I was ecstatic at finally going to Epidaurus, as for most of June and July I could only listen wistfully (OK, I was pea-green with envy) to the raves regarding the performances in this year’s Athens Festival. For me, being part of it was not enough. I don’t think I will get over missing Fiona Shaw playing Happy Days in Epidaurus; my taste of the Wooster Group’s exquisite Hamlet had only whetted my appetite for cerebral, avant-garde theater. Being a working actor means you never get to actually watch any performances other than your own, and even then, not properly. (The last show I was in, people kept telling me how much they loved the lighting design; I had no idea what the lighting looked like, and thanked them with cluelessness painted all over my face.)

But there I was, finally perched on the holy hill, grinning happily and squirming on the still-warm rock. We were sure that the performance would be exceptional; our only worry was that our sweet Marmarinos might not have the acting and vocal prowess to properly portray both Oedipus Rex and At Colonus.  We traded insider gossip, as only the most jaded, theater-going, know-it-alls do. We worried about his mouth surgery.

We needn’t have.

Marmarinos and the guy who played Creon as a baddie in some Zorro movie (circa 1940) were the only two people having a ball in this excruciatingly bad production. Four hours later, with a third of the theater gone and feeling like we had been beaten up, our only questions began with Why? Why? Why? We just couldn’t understand – anything at all.  As my shitlist of bad productions was given a new numbering system, we wondered:

Why pretend to use (i.e. light, and place a few benches on) the entire forest backdrop? I am all for treating actors and extras with the gentleness they deserve, but this duped us into thinking that it had some dramatic purpose.  Nope.  It was only for the guys who made the pretty patterns with silver dust in the orchestra to hang out on, until they had to go back and remake the pretty maze that the actors had the bad taste to spoil by stepping all over it. (We felt intellectually stumped as we debated the reasons.  The characters ignored the restraints of the maze of life, thus provoking the Gods’ wrath? The characters try to change the paths that Fate has laid out and fail?)

Why was everybody dressed Neanderthal-style, but the extras making the Silver Maze dressed like exterminators? Why could we see them? Why did they give up on the maze on the second part of the performance? Why did Antigone become an extra all throughout the second part? This brings us to:

Why on earth was Oedipus at Colonus performed first? I won’t begin to recount all the reasons we thought of; suffice to say, I stand by our last.  It simply was much better than Oedipus Rex, and they were aware that people would leave in droves.  When, a few days later, I found out the “truth” – all this was supposed to be Antigone’s recollection of her dad’s misfortune, and that was why she remained onstage throughout – I was aghast. I am sure there were a few simple things that could have been done (or even explained in the program – they weren’t) so that I would not have had to hunt throughout the acting community to find out.

Was this what the director had been dreaming of throughout her much-documented quest for the perfect production of Oedipus?  This was the summation of a year’s work? A leaden, academic reading of the two plays? With a few misguided directorial flourishes? Let’s not even get into the scratchy-voiced, shuffling, paper-clutching, half-monk, half-Star Wars extras that was the chorus.  The less said, the better about the emasculation of the most important part of any ancient Greek play.

Why was Kariofilia Karabeti as Antigone so unrecognizably bad? An Epidaurus veteran and with the sexiest voice in Greek theater, she normally has a knack for looking good even in bad productions; this time she bounded around like she was auditioning for Xena; the shrieking Ismene was her Gabriella, and they excelled at motion-stop-motion-speak/screech-start-motion-again acting. Amateur? Amazingly so.

Why did everybody wave their hands around, emphasing Ev-er-y syllable, in the most unnatural manner, and then stay stuck with their hands in the air for an indeterminable amount of time? Why? What was the purpose? Even our Press Secretary speaks with more feeling.

Why was the audience treated to a most kindergarten-like THERE WILL ONLY BE A 7 MINUTE BREAK (to a four-hour show) warning, and then forced to watch the most artless scene-shifting in history? (Lefteri, your Prince of Homburg was pure poetry; where are you in our hour of need?) The intermission occurred 4 minutes before the end of Oedipus at Colonus, provoking another Why? At this point, the only thing we were sure of was that there was not to be any experimental theater going on; so why don’t you just make a nice, classic production of it? Why?

The anti-intellectuals in theater may have a point, after all. (Dear Teacher, all is forgiven.)

My fit of giggles occurred during the lowest point of the performance.  Jocasta (played by Mania Papadimitriou, another revered actress) was dressed as Peter Pan, posing as a two-armed Kali and held aloft by two men on a white saucer (come on, National Theater! Where did all the budget go? On Ismene’s “horse”?) She admonished the quarreling Creon and Oedipus in such a funny, you-silly-silly-boys way that I keeled over with laughter.  Taking deep breaths, i watched, shocked, as she soon hopped off her palanquin, started screeching like a savaged pig, “KAKOTYXE!!” and crawled through the palace “gate” moaning – and only then did they guys holding her realize she wasn’t on her white saucer anymore, and they rushed after her a full 5 minutes after she had begun having contrived hysterics.

These people are all professional actors and directors of quality.  They have acted in and/or directed incredible performances.  Let’s not nitpick anymore.  Therefore, my final query is, Did you know what you were performing in?

What was left of the audience clapped madly, and I even read a blog that actually raved about the show.  Is it me? Us? We bowed our heads and rushed out to drink mass qualities of ouzo, averting our eyes when the performers walked by.  Only a few hours before I had fantasized about introducing myself, and now I couldn’t leave fast enough.

On to perp number 2.

I decide to go to my favorite open-air cinema, drink a Carib and watch the latest in Greek nepotism.  I had heard positive things about Kostantina Voulgari’s Valse Sentimentale, and I have a soft spot for the “alternative” lifestyle of my youth, so I figured in I was in for a pleasant evening.

The whole movie was set in my beloved Exarchia district of Athens, and I cooed at seeing pigtails, Doc Martens, Chartes cafe, Club Decadence, the steps of Kallidromiou Street (fondly, I recalled drinking cheap beer and singing on those steps); I began guessing (correctly) at the other locales that would be used in this ode to the anarchic neighborhood.

The game soon wore off.  If this had been a short, 15 minutes max, it could been a masterpiece.  At two hours, it was almost painful.  Let’s ignore the fact that the camera was held by an epileptic, the acting mediocre, and the lighting non-existent.  (No “wow, what a cool shot!!” here, you were lucky to see anything at all.) We’ll just assume Ms. Voulgari is of the make-your-audience-uncomfortable mentality.  So far, OK, live and let live.  But.

My basic disagreement with this “love story about nothing” is that Stamatis, the love interest, was so obviously an immature, unattractive, self-involved, verging-on-mental-retardation twat.

I don’t think I would have fallen for his line (by line, i mean his mumbling incomplete sentences) had I been 14 and he even remotely appealing.  To see the cute little punk-metal chick aching over this jerk was excruciating to the extreme.  Their conversations were infantile, plebian, and boring. Yet, there was even a gorgeous former girlfriend who practically had a fit when the git left her birthday party.

In a nutshell? This movie is forgivable only if the director’s age is not yet 18. (She’s pushing 30.)   I argued that her own sentimentality was to blame for this movie that had so obviously been in her drawer since junior high.  But, when you consider that her father is a respected, successful director, you realize she could have made this no-budget flick back then.

So, again, we are back to why? Why was this movie made? What was it trying to say?  That there are some women whose self-esteem is so low that they will pin all their hopes on an ugly fucker with the IQ of a cucumber?  That awkwardness and bad sex are cool?  That its ok – nay, nice – to put up with a disturbed “artist” (reaching for my barf bucket here) who can’t sleep in the same bed with you, and sends you on your way after the aforementioned bad sex? (“But I thought we were good,” she snuffles when he dumps her. Why, honey? Why? Are you retarded, too?)  When she picks up the used hanky he has thrown disdainfully on the floor and blows her nose, I wanted to shake her.

Valse Sentimentale is not a love story about nothing, because there was no love involved. Let me rephrase that, if that is love, I hope I never get it.  But that’s the thing.  I have gotten it and I know what its like; in its worst, most suicide-inducing moments it is not like this.

And then, for some reason, they hug and the credits finally roll. And I get Total Recall: The screeching Ismene and our pathetic movie heroine? One and the same.  Loukia Michalopoulou, unlucky girl, make better career decisions or else people will actually come to believe you’re a bad actress.

Fucking Karma.  I must have done something bad again. This must mean something.  I have to figure it out before next Friday’s excursion to Epidaurus; i don’t think I can handle 3 crappy shows in a row.

Permalink Leave a Comment