The work of the ‘AmericanChekhov’ hits Greek stage

The son of an alcoholic who became an alcoholic himself, Raymond Carver died at the age of 50 (1938-1988) under harsh circumstances not unlike those he described in his novels in his unadorned and direct style. His stories were invariably based on the daily life of ordinary people – complete with habitual, daily monstrosities, a quality which earned him the title of the American Chekhov. Four Raymond Carver short-story collections are available in Greek (published by Metaichmio, Odyssea and Apopeira editions). The author also inspired Robert Altman’s «Short Cuts» (1993), an award-winning film based on Carver’s short stories. Now Carver’s work has hit the Greek stage. A new production based on the author’s short stories is on at the Exostis Amore Theater. This is where leading young director Thomas Moschopoulos has directed «Toso Poli Nero, Toso Konta sto Spiti» (So Much Water, So Close to Home), with a distinguished cast from the Theatro tou Notou troupe, namely Anna Mascha, Argyris Xafis, Eleni Kokkidou, Fanny Mouratidi, Costas Berikopoulos and the promising Anna Kalaitzidou. Kathimerini recently talked to Moschopoulos about the ambitious production. Why did you choose to use a collection of short novels for a stage production? Does it have to do with the fact that theater is going through a crisis when it comes to new plays, a plague on both the local and international fronts? That too. Above all, however, I was interested in coming up with something rather contemporary, given that in the last few years I had been working exclusively on works belonging to the classic repertory. But I couldn’t find a play with the kind of simplicity that I was looking for at this point, in terms of an «environment,» in order to express things which had been on my mind for a while now. Why did you pick Carver? I always admired him as an author, but I never thought something like this could ever go on stage. It all started when I began thinking of him as «the American Chekhov.» I realized then that this kind of relationship could also survive on the level of adapting Carver’s works for the stage. When I went back to them and began reading them once more, I saw that the element of inner drama truly existed. I was deeply moved and I decided to start working on them without a second thought. Did you have to alter the works substantially? In the beginning I was under the impression that I was going to work on a more arbitrary, more free kind of adaptation. In the end, however, it turned out that I didn’t have to do anything too drastic. Some of the narrative was transposed from third to first person, some was shared between two characters while very few passages had to be eliminated altogether. How did you pick the short stories for this production? The basic idea in Carver’s thematic material in general, on first reading, is the relationships between couples. There are three couples in the play. A young couple – they are just beginning their life together – a middle-aged one going through a crisis and a separated couple, each now living with another companion. Through all this, however, given the way Carver handles it, things take on new, existential dimensions, though in very discreet – away from heroics and drama – ways. In this way he is totally in sync with Chekhov – the poetic dimension of dullness. Yet there are more hidden links, which turn out to be recurring themes in Carver, such as the water, a river or a bed, where the latter becomes the place for the couple’s vigil or the object of a purchase, etc. What would you say defines Carver’s characters? Their inability to express what’s bothering them, or perhaps to even locate it in the first place. Everything seems to be at a turning point, in crisis; they are aware of it, but they can’t define exactly what is happening to them. And they cannot express it. They talk endlessly, yet words simply cover up what they really feel. They are afraid of silence, but they are also afraid of exposing themselves. They don’t dare to speak openly to one another about what’s on their mind. How did you go about directing the play? Carver’s scholars define him as a realist-minimalist. We used the exact same codes for the production on all levels, whether in the acting or the visual aspect (sets and costumes were designed by Mayiou Trikerioti and lighting by Lefteris Pavlopoulos). Our aim was for viewers to have the same feeling as the readers – that nobody comes between them and the characters. This is why, quite often in the play, a character talking to another character addresses the audience. They are his confidant, the one he can speak to – the one to share all that that he can’t share with his or her partner. Exostis Amore Theater, 10 Pringiponisson. Call 210.646.8009.