David Mamet’s battle of the sexes in ‘The Woods’

There seems to be plenty connecting actor-translator-director Dimitris Tarlow with the work of American playwright and director David Mamet. First, there was «American Buffalo,» which Tarlow acted in alongside Dimitris Kataleifos and Giorgos Kentros at the Embros Theater back in 1992. It was an impressive performance that convinced many of the young actor’s potential. At the time, it now seems, Tarlow was already laying the foundations for his prospective theatrical activity. «Glengarry Glen Ross,» Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play that is a scathing representation of American business practices, which was successfully presented by Tarlow at his own theater. Now, Tarlow has opted to perform in «The Woods,» also by Mamet, which recently opened at Athens’s Poreia Theater (3-5 Trikorfou, tel 210.821.0991). «I know that in Greece, critical appraisal, especially, of his work is not particularly favorable. In my opinion, however, I believe that Mamet is not only a wordsmith of words and dialogue, but also a humanist writer – deep,» Tarlow noted. «He loves those whom he writes about and, most of all, has a vision for the light that always lies at the end of the tunnel,» he added. Tarlow’s previous Mamet production was a melodrama, while his current production of «The Woods» is a tragedy, he asserted, «in the sense that catharsis exists in the end.» Tarlow discovered the play, written in 1977, six years ago when he translated it for director Eleni Skotes, whose production of «The Woods» was seen in a few performances at the Fournos Theater. «But not many people managed to see it,» he said. «The Woods,» as perceived by Tarlow and his co-star Tamila Koulieva, whom he first met through a previous acting collaboration, examines anxieties between the sexes. The story is relatively simple. A couple ventures out to the man’s holiday house for a few days. Both sides appear set on having a good time, but, for mysterious reasons, fail to do so. As the play progresses, it becomes clear that the man is possessed and tormented by an illicit predicament. His partner pressures him in order to penetrate the isolation. «All her efforts to find out what’s wrong are left stranded, as he is unprepared to confront the friendly assault,» explained Tarlow. «Gradually, a poisonous feeling invades the space, one concerning the man’s past and which starts running like water and develops into a nightmare. It becomes evident that the lady seeks that man’s commitment – the eternal issue – while he seeks freedom and sex without ties,» he added. Tarlow described the stage action as «poetic realism,» or a «psychograph of male and female and their fears.» The fourth production of the Dolichos Theater Company since 1999, «The Woods» is directed by Grigoris Karantinakis, which does not mean that the group’s other director, Stathis Livathinos, has distanced himself. In fact, both directors intend to work with Tarlow next season on what Tarlow said would be a multifaceted co-production. «We’re continuing with Stathis. It’s just that we took a temporary break because he had to focus his efforts on the National Theater’s Experimental Stage,» Tarlow explained. «I actually met him through Karantinakis, whom I also respect. They studied together in Moscow.» Tarlow expressed appreciation for the support he says Livathinos has offered him. «I am much obliged to Livathinos because I learnt about a work method that concerned me, but did not know how to conquer,» said Tarlow. «If I were younger, I’d go to Moscow to study and learn again about acting and directing.»