New play takes on migrant issue

There is another new contemporary Greek play angling for public attention these days, written around a theme which is very much at the heart of society today: The integration of hundreds of thousands of migrants in the country and into the lives of Greeks. Following the very interesting «Unshaven Chins» by Yiannis Tsiros, which is currently on stage at the Porta Theater, the Greek National Theater has just opened «Milk,» written by Vassilis Katsikonouris and directed by Nikos Mastorakis, at the Hora Theater. The object of the play, though centered on migrants, is not to record the hardships faced by the foreigner or the pariah; newspapers do that well enough. While «Unshaven Chins» offers an X-ray view of the modern Greek psyche as it succumbs to the corrosive forces of the modern value system, «Milk» tries to take an incisive look at the foreigner who strives to join the society surrounding him. The story is centered on a family of Russians from the Black Sea region – a widowed mother and her two sons. One son battles a debilitating illness – schizophrenia, according to doctors – and the other fights tooth and nail to adjust to his new home country. «As I see it, both these boys suffer equally from different diseases,» said the director, Mastorakis, who has staged numerous successful performances of modern Greek plays. «Even the son who is fighting so he will not always be seen as a foreigner suffers an illness, because society often views foreigners as if they are infectious, as if they can taint the society into which they are trying to integrate. I see the actual illness as a metaphor in the play,» Mastorakis says. The role of the mother is central, as the title, «Milk,» suggests in an allusion to mother’s milk, the director said. «Her role is essential. Milk is the nourishment of the homeland, the thing they are missing. The mother (played by Mania Papadimitriou) has a soft spot for the son (played by Constantinos Papachronis) threatened by schizophrenia. Their relationship is almost erotic. «She sees the other son (Yiannos Perlegas) in an idealized light,» he continued. «She approves of his exhaustive efforts to become a Greek. She even pushes him in that direction but she is also a bit afraid of him, because he has a toughness that she knows could lead him in a very different direction.» There is a fourth character in the play, a girl, played by Maria Papastefanaki. «She is the future bride of the son who is striving to become a good Greek,» Mastorakis said. «She is the catalyst in the story because she polarizes the characters, without meaning to, and this separation has mortal results.» Realism with poetry «The play,» noted Mastorakis, «is realistic and this is the directorial line followed. But I tried to keep the performance from becoming naturalistic, not to present it as a small drama, but for it to transcend the realism a bit and keep its poetry. This is mostly achieved through the performance of the actors… It is such a pleasure to work with young artists. Every time I do I feel like I gain so much.» The sets and costumes for the production are designed by Eva Manidaki and lighting is by Katerina Marangoudaki. Hora Theater, 20 Amorgou, Kypseli, tel 210.867.3945.