Mind and Soul of Kazantzakis in the Flesh at Greek Cultural Center

ASTORIA – The audience watching Stratos Tzortzoglou’s “The Shout – Report to My Son,” inspired by Nikos Kazantzakis at the Greek Cultural Center (KEP) in Astoria can read the great author’s works in numerous languages, but they come seeking more.

Kazantzakis’ ideas can be studied and his hopes, dreams, disappointments, rage and fears can be encountered in his books, yet they are not his mind and soul but mere reflections, shadows on dried ink and crumbling paper.

Kazantzakis, the Cretan author who many believe was robbed of a Nobel prize by his own people, is gone, but Tzortzoglou, who created and directed the adaptation and plays the lead, wraps the Cretan’s words in flesh, blood and bone in “The Shout,” which runs through March 15 in Astoria and then embarks on a world tour.

Tzortzoglou told The National Herald that the project was triggered by the actual journey of own son, Alkiviades, to America.

He feared the abrupt change in context might disrupt the process of raising his son. One day the thought cut him like a knife, Tzortzoglou told TNH, that there comes a time when a father needs to convey critical knowledge and perspectives to his offspring.

It caused him to think again about a Kazantzakis works that made great impacts on his life “The Saviors of God – Askitiki” and Report to Greco, which inspired the title.

The play attempts to bring the soul of the author to life by presenting his reflections on the search for – often accompanied by outcries, kravgi – God, Love and Truth.

Tzortzoglou said that onstage “I speak continually to a child” – his son Alkiviadis, actually 17 years old, plays his character with a calm intensity – “who is growing up and is leaving his childhood behind.”

Although the play seeks to convey the philosophical and spiritual insights of Kazantzakis, its setting in the combustible moments of the end of adolescence – the source of great angst for both parent and child – compels Tzortzoglou to portray the father in an almost deranged state of mind.

At one point shouts at the audience with his face upside down on his wildly arched back.

But as a director Tzortzoglou has other means for conveying meaning, especially the moments of inner conflict that Kazantzakis so brilliantly conveys.

When the audience enters the theater they are confronted with a web of blood-red yarn extending to their seats. A video screen depicts still and moving images of people, including Tzortzoglou himself, but the most evocative device is the dancing – at times elegant, sometimes frenetic and frightened, of Despina Sophia Stamos.

There are moments when Stamos calmly unwinds the “threads of fate” reminiscent of Wagner’s Gotterdammerung, and times when she and Tzortzoglou become entangled in it to devastating effect as lamps and furniture crash to the floor.

For most of the play, Alkiviadis and a female companion, Lenya Souropani, who delightfully sings and dances – are seated in the first row, like audience members.

But they also enter the stage as their own lives and an incipient romance unfold.

Among the more fascinating elements was the use of Sufi symbolism and practice to illustrate such critical Kazantzakis contrasts as heaven and earth, mind and heart, giving and receiving,” Tzortzoglou said.

Stamos spins like a whirling dervish, one hand pointed heavenward, the other towards the earth. Tzortzoglou explained the symbolism: “Spinning like a tornado whose interior becomes a void, you first become a nothing, and then you can become light,” – Kazantzakis’ great quest.

At times, during his “schooling” the son seems desperate to express himself to his father, but there doesn’t not appear to be any real communication between the intellectual and his flesh and blood son.

What the father wants most is to convey to the son the idea of love without limits, but ultimately the son finds the experience asphyxiating and seeks his own freedom – with the girl as his muse/accomplice.

The play has been described as a poetic composition, and although it is quite experimental, the elements are well thought out. “Through video, music, dance I unite all the arts, because they all constitute a single cry,” Tzortzoglou said.

Reina Eskenazy is responsible for the video art. Kyriakos Papadopoulos composed the original music and there were musical contributions by Vangelis Petsalis and Nikos Platyrachos. Kostas Stavroulakis and Giorgos Mazonakis perform on lyra and vocals in alternate stagings.

Teti Nikolopoulou and Stamos did the choreography and Michael Sdougos was the scenographer.

Tzortzoglou, who has worked with Greece’s leading directors, including Karolos Koun in contemporary and classical Greek productions, in film and on TV, said that the play is a also a bridge between Greece and America “because the kravgi – the cry of Greece in crisis – must be heard in America.” He deliberately chose a small theater to convey for the straightened current circumstances of the people of Greece.




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