George Scandalis is back for a third production in Greek at the Alumnae Theatre in Toronto. He has written, directed and stars in Oi Erosylies (Οι Ερωσυλίες), whose central theme is love and the many forms that it can take. There are many other tentacles in the plot but you can only get them or try to in any event if you see the play.
The inspiration for the play is the poetry of Erofili Gerasimidou and a central image is the Bourboulia, a masked ball with a difference that forms a part of the Patras Festival. The play takes place in the city of Patras.
A couple of explanations may be helpful. In the Bourboulia, women attend the ball with their faces fully covered and frequently engage in sex with unknown partners. It is an expression of feminist freedom for one night and the event dates back to 1872. It may not be exactly Dionysian revels but one could find something bacchanalian in it.
The title of the play is a word coined by Ms Gerasimidou. It comes from the word ierosylia (ιεροσυλία) which means sacrilege. Ms Gerasimidou’s first name is formed from the words “eros” and “filia” which can mean a lover of eros. Erosylia may mean the theft of love. You may get a better understanding if you see the play.
Eri (Stella Makrogiannakou) and Maria (Stavroula Karnouskou) are cousins or maybe sisters and they live with Yiota (Irene Bithas) whom they address as mother. There are many facts that you will have to figure out for yourself and I will not spoil the plot for you by revealing too much.
Maria has been engaged to Petros (George Scandalis) for some ten years but he is not marrying her because he cannot afford it. Maria is a very nice and lovable girl. Eri is the wild type who goes out at night and her mother is furious with her to the extent of calling her a slut. Yiota is a very devout Christian but there is more to her religious zeal than meets the eye.
The girls get an invitation to the Bourboulia and Eri meets Petros there. We know that they have sex there but who else knows that for certain? And when is Petros going to marry Maria?
These are the questions and complications that will keep us busy for about three hours. The performance contains extensive reading of Ms Gerasimidou’s poems which are arranged chronologically like a diary of love and separation. We hear a voice over reciting lines of her poetry. Dramatic scenes are highlighted by background music which at times takes over.
There are nine roles in addition to the four major parts that I mentioned. Some are well defined like the ditzy Natasha (Elaine Sarantakos) and her boyfriend Antonis (Dimitri Hatzikonstadinou) but others are not as recognizable. The lack of a cast list with the roles they play does not help.
The set is indicated by minimal pieces of furniture. Yiota’s house has a table and a wall full of icons, the outdoor scene is indicated by a bench and a couple of flower pots, a bed is pushed on stage when necessary and the rest of the time they perform on an empty stage.
The play, at three hours including intermission, could use some dramaturgical surgery. Yiota’s confession, for example, even when delivered by Irene Bithas, can use some trimming. The voice over announcing the number of days and providing some kind of chronology needs to be clearer.
Theatre in impeccable Greek in downtown Toronto, written, directed and starring a young Canadian of Greek descent?
And supported by what looks like a large segment of the Greeks of Toronto?
And attended by a significant number of young people?
Yes, to all.