Satire without the sting dilutes ‘A Woman Alone’

Franca Rame and Dario Fo’s powerful monologue «A Woman Alone» is spoken by a woman whose jealous husband keeps her locked up in their apartment after finding her in bed with a much younger man. Frantic with isolation, overwhelmed by the duty of tending her ailing and abusive brother-in-law, she starts talking to a woman who lives opposite, breaking off frequently to field repeated interruptions and obscene calls. As in much of Rame and Fo’s work, this play satirizes the social milieu where women live in subjugation to the men in their lives. Yet satire was completely absent from a recent production of the play, performed for two nights only at the Hellenic American Union, by Maria Tsakalidou and directed by Christos Tsangas. And along with the sting went most of the impact and meaning. In a one-dimensional reading, Tsakalidou played the part in soap-opera fashion, interpreting the heroine as a frivolous, self-absorbed housewife. She writhed and simpered while welcoming obscene calls, seemed so unsure of her feelings that she had to consult a book to read out how she felt, and made melodramatic suicide attempts, all with little reference to the original text. The emendations diluted the message and discredited the heroine’s responses, making her so superficial that her experiences never resonated beyond her own tiny world into a larger society where oppression exists. Never did we feel that the conditions in which she was living were objectively bad or might affect other women. Rather, the events seemed to take place exclusively in the heroine’s head. This disappointing production distorted the play and drained it of meaning. Those who prefer to see the real thing can do so at the Athinais center, where Shirin Youssefian is performing Rame and Fo’s «Female Parts» till December 1, and doing justice to its authors and their subversive message.

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