CULTURE

Marios Pontikas revisits the Oedipus myth in latest work

Marios Pontikas draws on the Oedipus myth for his monologues «The Murderer of Laius» and «The Crows,» now on stage at the Stoa Theater in Zografou. In the first, an unnamed shepherd, played by Thanassis Papageorgiou, faces a bank of television cameras. Flanked by his two silent daughters, he quietly, almost imperturbably, recounts what happened when he went hunting some marauding wolves. The audience soon recognizes the moments that precipitate the tragedy in Sophocles’ «Oedipus Rex» – a violent encounter with a stranger at a place where three roads meet, the Sphinx and her riddle. There are subtle differences; here the man is a knowing protagonist who dismisses the riddle as child’s play and repeatedly denies being the reincarnation of Oedipus, producing his undamaged ankles as evidence, though aware that his family history bears curious parallels to the myth. The narrative is unfixed, slippery, constantly interrogated by the narrator himself, who recounts his tale as if he is a witness giving evidence in court, forever looping back to correct details. Coming at the myth from an unexpected angle, Pontikas calls into question the workings of fate and the reliability of narrative. The cawing of crows, heard intermittently throughout the play, builds to a crescendo, leading into the second monologue, where the playwright’s touch is markedly less assured. The entrance of Leda Protopsalti, half woman, half crow, in a copiously feathered outfit, strikes the first false note, teetering unintentionally on the edge of comedy, and not all the wiles of this seasoned trouper avail. After the thought-provoking first monologue, the second lacks depth and impact. A partial mirror image of the first, «The Crows» offers a different slant on the same events – the Crow cites Tiresias’ words to Oedipus to tell the Man that he is «the miasma» of which the city must be freed – but it offers no fresh insight. Repetition, earlier used to dramatic effect, here tediously hammers home the inadequacy of human language. So much for hubris, fate and responsibility. The two monologues sit so uneasily side by side, the one moving and resonant on many levels, the other essentially undramatic, that the first half might be better left to brave the world alone as a satisfying, self-contained dramatic monologue.