Art with grace, a play without airs

Actor Constantinos Tzoumas has taken on a new challenge this year, playing four very different roles in a play that is, in effect, a monologue. But Tzoumas does not appear daunted by the difficulty of this challenge, remaining, as ever, stylishly distant. «I like art to appear like a child’s game, as if it has been put together right here, right now. As if there has been little effort behind it, no bellyaching – as if it has appeared by way of a miracle,» he said in a recent interview. «I just can’t walk onto the stage with a look that says: ‘Oh! Look how I’ve suffered!’» Tonight Tzoumas is due to appear in the premiere performance of Vassilis Alexakis’s «I Don’t,» directed by Giorgos Economou, at the Proskinio Theater. He plays a man who begins to tell the story of God’s creation of the world, but before he finishes, he is drawn into another story. Tzoumas’s roles are: the storyteller; an elderly professor who likes to read a hidden meaning in everything; a guy in an old-style cafe who loses control of his hands, and finally, a fourth that very few would ever spare the time to listen to – a «clochard, out of space and time who is trying to tell his story at his own, unhurried pace. Only he never completes his sentences and this is where the play gets its title,» he explains. The common thread between the characters is, according to Tzoumas, the fact that «they are the faces of loss; they have lost their steam, their ability to move normally within a space. They are all in the air, but they are also very familiar characters.» When he reads something by Alexakis, Tzoumas says, he reassess the things around him with a little bit more understanding each time. «He is the writer who familiarized me with Greek literature, because as a complete fan of all things foreign, I spent years reading foreign literature: Nabokov, Bulgakov, etc. It was due to him that I discovered Zyranna Zateli and Chomenidis, Alexis Stamatis and Maria Mitsora. There is something in Alexakis that conciliates the reader to the moody kiosk owner, the unbelievable cab driver, the people who surround us daily.» The performance, according to Tzoumas, has been enriched by the director with «a comic and cosmopolitan point of view. It avoids the unlaughing world of the avant-garde, as well as the frivolity of the revue. Humor from the waist down. It is a solid performance without airs.» The characters he plays give him everything he wants from theater – the eccentricity of heroes. What most people see as absurd, Tzoumas sees as mundane. «Maybe because I have traveled a lot and lived abroad, I find all of this very familiar. I never said, ‘I’ll have to force myself into the skin of this role,’» he said. «I grew up with people like Yiannis Christou and Nikiforos Rotas who believed that art has to be performed with grace.»

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