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REVIEW OF 2019 IASMOS PRODUCTION IN ATHENS

Where is Grover’s Corners?

Walk a few hundred meters past the park known as Pedion Areos along Leoforos Alexandras, to number 106. On the third floor of an unprepossessing building you will find the Lambeti Theatre Terrace, an open-air, 300-seat venue. There you will find a marvelous production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and that is exactly where Grover’s Corners is located. In Athens.

The production by Iasmos Higher School of Drama is directed and dramaturged bu Yiannis Kakleas and it captures the charm, humour, touching drama and beauty of the 1938 Pulitzer Prize winner. 

Our Town tells the story of life in a mythical American town between 1901 and 1913. The story is narrated by a Stage Director (Dimitris Kouroumbalis) who informs us that we are seeing a reenactment of what happened in Grover’s Corners at the beginning of the last century. Kouroumbalis is an excellent host who leads us through the story with charm and good humour.

The three acts of the play are titled Daily Life, Love and Marriage, and Death and Eternity and that encompasses the entire cycle of life. George Gibbs (Giorgos Amoutzas) and Emily Webb (Alexandra Tavoulari) are neighbours and classmates in school. We follow these attractive youngsters at home where their mothers try to get them to eat their breakfast, behave well and do well. They fall in love haltingly, tenderly with large doses of humor and we follow them through poignant and funny wedding and then on to Death and Eternity. Just splendid performances.

George’s parents Dr. Gibbs (Yiorgos Yianoutsos) and Mrs. Gibbs (Iphigenia Asteriadi) and Emily’s parents Mr. Webb (Dimitris Degaitis), the newspaper owner and Mrs. Webb (Fay Kokkinopoulou) are loving, worried, decent and wonderful people and the actors convince us of that unfailingly.

The same can be said of all the other actors.

Kakleas seemed very enamored of video clips and there are a number of them projected at various stages of the play. Some of them are clips from silent films with views of small-town America and comic scenes with actors like Buster Keaton. Some of the clips are made with the actors on stage and made to appear s if they are old, silent movies. Even the scene with Professor Willard (Spyros Katsianos) is made to look as if it were an old film clip.

The last scene in the cemetery during a funeral is very moving. We meet the dead people of the town seated in arrow as the funeral of Emily is in progress. It is a wonderful scene that raises the play above a merely sentimental comedy.  

There are some, perhaps inexcusable, infelicities. All the actors had a cord around their neck which held a microphone near their mouths. That means we heard everyone from one loudspeaker located at the top of the stage. It was extremely annoying, unsightly and surely unnecessary. Most of the actors are professionals and surely they can project their voice all of the fifty feet to the back of the theatre. 

The set by Manolis Pantelidakis, is appropriately unrealistic. The houses of the two families are indicated on each side of the stage with location changes indicated in the middle of the playing area. Full marks for stage design.

I found the reaction of the audience unpleasantly surprising. There were very few laughs, to put it politely, in a production that I found funny and enjoyable. There were times when I was the only one laughing. A fine production deserves a better reception.

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Our Town by Thornton Wilder, in a translation by Minoas Volanakis will play until September 22, 2019 at the Theatro Lambeti, 106 Leoforos Alexandras, Athens, Greece.