CULTURE

It was the emotion that did it

She’d been flirting with the idea of taking on «Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?» a play by Edward Albee, for years, but would then hesitate. It may rank as a highly desired project for many Greek actors, but Anna Vagena would not entirely agree. Now, she has ultimately decided to perform the project at the Metaxourgeio Theater in Athens, also the artist’s home base, which she shares with her partner, the musician Loukianos Kilaidonis. Performances begin this Wednesday. «I felt that it was beyond the range of my selections. I thought that it didn’t have anything in common with the more emotional theater I’ve staged, such as the monologues, Greek plays, [Tennessee] Williams,» said Vagena. «[Albee’s play] seemed more intellectual to me.» But when Vagena decided to get to work on «Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?» – translated into Greek by Jenny Karezi and Stamatis Fassoulis – she quickly realized that it was «a play of the heart.» The play is directed by Eleni Boza, a talented 36-year-old artist who trained at the National Theater after abandoning her law degree. «The way it’s staged cannot be compared to performances we’ve seen before this,» said Vagena. Boza’s handling of the play, which was written in 1962 and influenced by that decade’s political volatility, brings the play into alignment with contemporary times. «In America, we had the Kennedy era, his assassination, as well as that of Martin Luther King, the Cold War – in other words, a very intense period that produced student movements until May, 1968, in Paris,» Vagena said. «Albee wrote the play feeling deeply fueled by the [sociopolitical] changes, and transplanted the era’s essence into a couple’s relationship. Let’s not forget that it is coming from a rosy period, that of the 50s, when the American dream was at its peak. Everything seemed wonderful. And, suddenly, with this specific play, this writer shows that things aren’t as they are believed to be. Couples are stunned and relationships fall apart. I think there’s a relevance here with our era, but from another angle. I believe that an uprising is on the way,» she added. Vagena plays the role of Martha, a character whom the actress believes represents most women who have experienced stifling long-term relationships, or «women who want to live well, not through material goods, but on an emotional level,» in the actresses’s words. «Martha is susceptible, tender and downtrodden by daily life and its mediocrity,» said Vagena. «She is heartbroken by the fact that she has not lived the life she would have liked to… the failure by the man she fell in love with to live up to what she wanted to share with him. She’s like a wounded animal trapped in a cage.» The role of Honey, for which cast member Yiasemi Kilaidoni was forced to switch from brunette to blonde, is a vital component to the play. «Though there are comical elements on the surface, you eventually realize that it concerns a tragic figure. Of the [play’s] four characters, I think it is Honey who makes the biggest turnaround and revelation. She and her husband play the promising couple. She seems to be an indifferent, colorless, typical spouse, but is immersed in alcohol and declares that she doesn’t want children,» said Yiasemi Kilaidoni. The actress said the element that touched her most in «Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf» was the battle waged by people to remain together. «These days, unfortunately, we opt for simpler ways. It’s a plain good-bye,» remarked the actress. Boza, the production’s director, described Albee’s play as «the greatest American drama, timeless and capable of disclosing many things that are relevant to current times.» The director, too, said she was drawn to the play by its focus on the determination of two people to remain together, despite having to do battle with their dark sides. «It runs contrary to our era and life’s patterns today, where getting together with somebody can amount to a night, three months, or just making a move at the bar,» said Boza. «If it doesn’t suit you, well, you just throw it away. We don’t make the simplest of efforts to save. Martha is a woman of today, who demands the attention and love of her husband. She demands from him the male’s role she wants. Whereas Honey is the kind of woman who hides behind herself and says that all is going well.» Albee’s play is the second production to be directed by Boza. The other, «Mam» by Sakis Serefas, is currently playing at the Amore Theater in Athens. The two, Boza said, are «different kind of works.» The director described «Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?» as a significant American play and «Mam» as an interesting modern Greek production. After gaining her degree in law, Boza began attending a National Theater workshop run by Yiannis Rigas. For her drama degree, her thesis was focused on Dostoyevski. It led to an invitation by the National Theater of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for a staging of Sophocles’s «Electra» by the emerging director. «My first [career] thought was to study mass media. I was concerned about the name comparison,» said cast member Yiasemi Kilaidoni, the daughter of Vagena and singer-songwriter Loukianos Kilaidonis. Commenting on working within a family environment, Kilaidoni said it was «great because you get to experience a project from its birth,» while adding that the «tension isn’t lacking.» The entire family moved in 1999 from the comfortable Athenian suburb of Psychico to the downtown Athens theater, where a home was also set up. Vagena said that most of her dreams were finding fruition at the Metaxourgeio Theater. «It’s a small place where I can do what I want and be independent,» said Vagena. «The neighborhood we live in is not easy, but is beautiful. From early morning, the place is buzzing – you can hear the technicians at work, then there are the people at the office, and above all that, you’ve got the house where the food’s cooking. The feeling of family is everywhere.» The seasoned actress said she would also like to work more with younger playwrights, and not necessarily stick to classics such as Shakespeare and Chekhov. But, the lack of funds, the actress said, restricted her moves. «I get subsidies, but the money is very little, so I can’t make any big moves.»