Eleni Kastani: Not just another funny face

Actors like Eleni Kastani are doubly valuable to Greek theater. This is not just because she is a charismatic actress whose presence is felt immediately when she walks onto a stage, nor because top-quality comic actresses are becoming increasingly rare. Surprisingly, Kastani – who has always been thought of as a comic actress – is now playing a rather dramatic role, and it seems to have worked out for the best, as «The Mysterious Mr Love» by Britain’s Karoline Leach continues its second season run at the Ilissia-Volanaki Theater to a packed house. Mr Love, played by Alkis Kourkoulos, is a good-looking, suave, small-time con man of the Belle Epoque who makes his living by dipping his hand into the savings of the less desirable women of society, such as, say, the plump woman. In this case, the plump woman is Adela, beautifully played by Kastani, who seized the opportunity to display a new facet of her talent. Why did Kastani select such as role? «Generally, I am quite bold,» she replied. «It was something I was pursuing, to play a non-comic role. The first time I did was a few years ago when I played in ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ directed by Constantinos Arvanitis. A lot of other actresses had been too scared to play in it. And it was very successful. I have also played non-comic roles in films, such as the role given to me by Michalis Reppas and Thanassis Papathanassiou in ‘Safe Sex,’ and even more so in ‘One Day in August’ by Constantinos Giannaris, where the role was clearly a dramatic one. I consider this film a very important moment in my career because I got to work with Giannaris. And now, this play. I wanted to do it from the moment I first read it, when the translator, Giorgos Valaris, gave it to me.» The production of the play spent a few years wandering astray until veteran actress and theater owner Mimi Denisi read it and evaluated its potential. «She is an exceptionally intelligent person,» said Kastani, «and you can see it from the selections she makes and the plays she has presented on the main stage of the Ilissia Theater.» Another bonus in the production for Kastani is that she gets to be on stage, alone, with a handsome jeune premier. «I felt great about it, just like any woman would,» she quipped. «I must admit that I really wanted Alkis to be the one to play Mr Love. So I was thrilled when he said he would do it. And you see, I was right in the end, because he is excellent for the part.» What makes her performance especially interesting is that she has managed to infuse certain lines in the play with her naturally comic delivery even in a part where the character of the play would not have suffered by it. «I avoided it at all costs,» she explained. «First and foremost, I consider myself an actress; I don’t really understand what this ‘comic actress’ really means. Even when I play a comic role I just do it naturally. I don’t try to do funny things, I let the humor come out by itself. I don’t feel like I’ve ever sold my soul just to get a laugh.» Even as a young graduate from drama school, Kastani admits to having been attracted to very different types of theater. «I would like to have a more varied repertory now, instead of just comedy,» she admitted. «But it is a bit difficult once you have been put into a specific category. Being called a good comic actress though is certainly not peanuts. It’s a big deal. The public adores good comic actors, and that is not something you can easily replace.» Ilissia-Volanaki Theater, 4 Papadiamantopoulou, tel 210.721.0045.

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