NEW YORK – Art imitates life imitates art. The Greek Cultural Center’s (KEP) production of “O Katadikos Mou – My Convict, ” which runs through Feb. 8 is about a handful of people, but the relationships – some accidental, some intentional, some genetic – are so intricate, and the possible paths towards both happiness and tragedy are so many, it reminds inevitably of the Greek crisis.
Christos Godas, who in 2014 returned the United States, where he previously earned a Master’s at the University of Miami, brings a fresh perspective on Greek theater and the Greek crisis to Astoria.
He told The National Herald, the play, written by Eleni Radou, Sara Ganoti and Kino Stavrakoudi, touches on the angst prevailing in Greece, and matters like violence, illegal immigration and discrimination against foreigners.
The authors explore the deep and salient topic of the mind-sets of the Greek people, and how contemporary Greeks are facing their problems – longstanding problems and new ones created by the crisis.
“In the crucible of the crisis,” for example, “the typical citizen has been metamorphosed in to racists – although deep down they are not,” he said.
The play begins when Katie, an agitated young woman – delightfully played by Laureta Giata – enters her apartment just in time to find relief in her bottle of tranquilizers, only to be terrified by a robber.
Tables turning quickly is one of the threads running through the play, as it does in contemporary Greek politics. Katie takes control when she grabs her gun, but then the robber Karim (Dimitris Panos) sympathetically portrays an young man struggling with life and living in a strange new country) whom we learn is a refugee from Iran– grabs the gun an escapes.
Karim’s disputed status is always in the background– he calls himself a political refugee– and Katie who disgusted by the illegal immigrant who invaded her apartment/country, sees her feelings shift.
Soon the audience meets “the convict,” Katie’s husband who had left her Giannis, played by actor and film director Fotis Batzas. The audience is left to decide whether he fled an impossible marriage with a neurotic woman, or his insensitivity and narcissism drove Katie crazy.
Nevertheless, she desperately wants him back, deploying without a second thought ( that may aslo be social commentary) lies that put them both in danger, and if fact turn her apartment into a prison. First Katie’s love makes Giannis the convict, then his paranoia make her the prisoner.
Before and after the intermission, Katie breaks the fourth wall and asks the audience if she should stay with Giannis. Voting for love over reason, they sent her back.
The play’s serious topics were nicely offset with comic relief. Scheming gets entangled with scheming and Giannis needs help from his off-the-wall friend Makis, played by Diodoros Pagoudis, who has developed a reputation as an excellent character actor.
Karim, all alone in Greece, becomes dependent on his friend Sasha. Again reflecting contemporary Greece, even though Sasha, played with intensity by Roberto Klingopoulos, is not a Mafioso, his drug dealing and propensity to violence make him a dark figure.
The conscious scheming interacts with co-incidences that create circumstances both humorous and tragic as emotional bonds are established and broken in unpredictable ways, and Godas had to create a space for everything to unfold naturally.
The play, created for a large stage, was a huge success in Greece and Godas said his challenge was to adapt it to the Center’s intimate space.
“The actors and the production team helped me a lot,” he said what the audience sees is the result of the intimate cooperation… …I believe absolutely that theater is about teamwork.’
Godas, who added a Diploma in Motion Pictures from the Lykourgos Stavrakos School of Cinema to his bachelors from the University of Athens and whose theater studies focused on classic Greek tragedy and contemporary Greek drama, also benefitted from techniques he learned watching productions of the great Greek directors, Karolos Koun.
In one scene, an automobile accident was vividly represented by combining an actor walking with an image projected on a screen.
“I had to make radical changes on the set, dividing it into two different levels,” he said.
The elderly father Nikos, who suffered from heart-rending dementia – was present in his hospital bed in the foreground in almost every scene. He was powerfully present in everyone’s reality even as his own loved ones disappeared from his consciousness – a gripping presentation of the painful situations in many families.
American-born guests appreciated the English supertitles.
Godas born in Pireaus with roots in Asia Minor, began to dream of becoming a film and stage director from the age of 16.
“I concluded that one of the most important things in life is to generate emotions, and in Greece, the heritage of theater is so strong, He said he felt it as both a personal mission and a part of his Greek identity,” he said.
His own emotions were stirred by Greek music, especially rebetika, in his youth.
He worked for seven years in Greek television and then had a great life experience, helping with the production of the 2004 Greek Olympics. “The opening ceremony was one of the best broadcast events ever,” he told TNH.
Tickets are $20 and are available at 718-726-7359. The final performances are Feb. 6 and 7 at 8 PM and Sunday, Feb. 8 at 4 PM.