NEW YORK – For three performances only, Cyprus New York Productions presented Κalinichta Margarita (Goodnight Margarita) November 1-3 at St. George and St. Demetrios Church in Manhattan.
The play by Gerasimos Stavrou, directed by Theodoros Petropoulos and Phyto Stratis tells the harrowing true story of teacher Margarita Perdikari from Ioannina, Greece, and her life during the occupation in World War II. The production is under the auspices of the Consulate General of Greece in New York in collaboration with the Greek Division of Ronald McDonald House and was perfectly timed to follow the commemoration of Oxi Day, October 28, as well as the 80th anniversary of the start of WWII.
The production featured a stellar cast: Anna Tsoukala, Theodora Loukas, Stavros Markalas, Theodoros Petropoulos, Diodoros Pagoudis, Christiana Kandilioti, Chrysi Sylaidi, Tasos Karydis, Ariadne Panagopoulou, Angelo Niakas, Chrisanthos Petsilas, Phyto Stratis, Evangeline Zoulas, Demetris Michael, and Angela Tsamasirou in the title role of Margarita Perdikari.
The staging, breaking the fourth wall, allowed the audience to be immersed completely in the drama from the moment they entered the space of the church hall. The actors in costume and in character greeted the audience members as they came in. One actor went up to various people just as they walked in and asked if anyone had seen his niece.
Powerful performances by the entire cast brought to life this true story and the time period as well. Life during the occupation was vividly depicted from the early sort of denial/optimism to the gradual wearing down of the niceties of civilization as the fascist oppression grinds up the spirit of many people. And yet, the courage to stand up for what is right and to stand up even when the odds are against you persists.
Director Theodoros Petropoulos, a skilled actor in his own right and in this production as well, allows the actors and the text to shine with his keen understanding of stagecraft.
The historic church, one of the early Greek Orthodox communities in New York City, also provided a unique atmosphere with its historic black and white photos on display on one wall and a plaque commemorating the parishioners who fought for the preservation of freedom in World War II.
The audience applauded enthusiastically at the conclusion of the play and gave a standing ovation for the talented performers, including the dynamic actresses Tsoukala, Loukas, Kandilioti, and Tsamasirou in her first starring role. The chemistry between Tsamasirou and Tasos Karydis was impressive in their scenes together which added a poignancy to their dramatic parting and to the conclusion of the play. Stavros Markalas also gave a fine performance in the thankless role of Periklis.
Following the performance, Cyprus New York Productions President Phyto Stratis thanked all those present for their support, particularly Consul Generals of Greece and Cyprus, Konstantinos Koutras and Alexis Phedonos-Vadet, respectively, Consul of Greece Lana Zochiou, Maria Markou, the President of the Parish Council of St. George and St. Demetrios Church Athos Zakou, the Greek Division of Ronald McDonald House, Panos and Sylvia Adamopoulos, Anna and Elias Neofotistos, Ismini Michaels, and the cast and crew of the production. Many members of the Pancyprian Choir also attended, showing their support for Stratis who also happens to be the Choir’s Artistic and Music Director, and for the entire production which included many performers who are also Choir members.
Consul General of Cyprus Alexis Phedonos-Vadet congratulated all those involved in the production for their excellent work, and also thanked all those present for their support. Consul General of Greece Konstantinos Koutras also offered his congratulations and said there were no words to describe the moving production. Consul of Greece Lana Zochiou said that Stratis and his efforts have elevated the community events and everyone is looking forward to the next production.
Maria Markou noted firstly that she was very moved by the play and when Stratis had mentioned to her that the team needed help, she did not hesitate since this is the omogeneia’s team and Stratis contributes so much to the community.
Stratis then asked all those present to go upstairs into the church and light a candle for those like Margarita Perdikari and those listed on the plaque in the church hall, whose courage and bravery must never be forgotten. As Stratis noted, the subject of the play is modern history of Greece, and we all know how important historical memory is especially for us, the Greeks of America and our children.
The beauty of the historic church, its iconography and iconostasis impressed all who went to pay their respects. An added bonus was when cast member Demetris Michael, still in his German officer’s costume, chanted in the church. Besides being a performer and music teacher, Michael is also a Byzantine Chanter at Holy Cross in Whitestone.