Miller and Pinter: More modern classics on stage

In Arthur Miller’s play «Mr Peters’ Connections,» the leading character, played by Lefteris Voyiatzis, is forever asking what the point is, and at times the audience would also like to know. The competent Nea Skini troupe do their best, the set is convincing and Maria Laina’s translation is honest, but this sometimes overly earnest production – directed by Nikaiti Kontouri – sags in the middle, occasioning much surreptitious checking of watches among the audience. Mr Peters, an elderly man who once flew planes for Pan American, mulls over his past, while secondary characters appear, apparently reflecting his thoughts. A woman from his past, his wife, the owner of the bar where the action takes place, a young couple, and a cleaning woman come and go on the edges of the action which, according to Miller himself, takes place inside Peters’ head, in «that suspended state of consciousness when the mind is free to roam from real memories to conjectures, from trivialities to tragic insights, from terror of death to glorying in one’s being alive.» Some of the characters turn out to be blood relations of Peters, some are already dead, and some are perceived at a distance. Adele, the black cleaning woman who is on stage throughout, but only visible from the waist up, is on the very fringes of the action and frequently ignored, as a woman of her color and status doubtless would have been in the real world during much of Peters’ life span. But the play itself seems to amble off in different directions. Mr Peters’ search for meaning is too diffuse and the other characters too shadowy to become compelling. Ultimately there is too much of the trivial and not enough tragic insight or glory in being alive to make for memorable drama. One definite drawback to this production is the excessively literal identification of the characters with real people from the author’s life, notably Marilyn Monroe. This merely limits the character’s resonance, reducing the levels at which the play works, rather than adding to them. Even the program, with its wealth of undeniably interesting black-and-white photographs, obsessively returns to representations of Monroe. But Miller’s work, even in this somewhat unsatisfying play, reaches far beyond the merely autobiographical, as his many references to America suggest. Archetypal power struggle In direct contrast is a full-blooded production of Harold Pinter’s «Homecoming,» directed by Nikos Mastorakis and translated by Minos Volanakis. Nearly 30 years after its first performance, «Homecoming» retains its punch. Once again Pinter depicts relationships among a group of men at a testing moment, when Teddy, a professor (Alkis Panayiotidis), returns to the family home from abroad with his wife. Teddy’s two brothers, Lenny (Stelios Mainas), a cock-of-the-walk pimp, and Joey (Constantinos Manos), an inarticulate bodybuilder, are already striving for ascendancy in the family, locked into a pattern of trading insults with their father Max (Yiannis Voglis) and uncle Sam (Babis Yiotopoulos). Jessie, the wife of Max and mother to three boys, is dead, and in her absence the father has taken on both parental roles. The ongoing power struggle in the archetypal arena of the family intensifies dangerously with Teddy’s homecoming and the intrusion of a woman. The only time the men present a united front is when they callously conspire to sexually exploit Teddy’s wife Ruth (Betty Arvaniti), the outsider in their midst. But the balance of power shifts abruptly as Ruth unexpectedly sets her own terms. Lenny the pimp gets his quid pro quo, Joey the motherly love he longs for, plus a sexual partner, while the patriarch is reduced to begging in vain for so much as a kiss. Pinter’s world can be humorous but it is never cheerful, and the raw misogyny of much of the work is only partially balanced by the final twist in the power play. An immensely assured cast performs «Homecoming,» with Voglis outstanding as Max, and Stelios Mainas personifying sadistic intimidation. ‘Mr Peters’ Connections,’ Nea Skini, Roes Theater, 14 Iakchou, Gazi, tel 010.347.4312. ‘The Homecoming,’ Kefalinias Street Theater, 16 Kefalinias, Kypseli, tel 010.883.8727

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