Study on greed, superficiality

The decomposition of a society’s fabric, if not society as a whole – a concern that reminds us greatly of the prevailing trends in this country today, such as avarice, nouveau-riche ways, corruption and the glorification of the superficial – is the dominant theme in «A Family Affair,» a classic play by Alexander Ostrovsky that is now being performed for the first time in Greece at the Amore Theater. As is well known, the Athenian theater company has announced that will close down at the end of this season following 17 years of vigorous activity, the chief reasons being founder Yiannis Houvardas’s move to the National Theater and the inconsistent flow of Culture Ministry subsidies. Written circa 1880, Ostrovsky’s play was recently translated into Greek for the first time by Giorgos Depastas. A work of delicate comic nuances that is also tragically bitter, the Russian dramatist’s «A Family Affair» depicts the conditions of society in his era. The story is told through the experiences of a merchant family whose sole concern is its social status. In its day, the play was banned because it was considered offensive to the merchant class, which was on a rapid upward trajectory. The plot revolves around a wealthy merchant who tries to fool his creditors by setting up a scam. The attempt, however, leads to a bitter conclusion. «Once again, I’ve become involved with the family theme,» noted Nikos Mastorakis, the play’s director, referring to last season, when he directed the much-discussed «To gala» (Milk) by Vassilis Katsikonouris at the National Theater. «And I’ve also done other plays based on related themes. It came about by chance, of course, but this happens to be a topic that interests me, because the family is the nucleus of society, as well as a war zone. Everybody’s main battle is waged at the family level,» he continued. Besides directing Ostrovsky’s late-19th-century classic, Mastorakis is also credited with the play’s adaptation. «Ostrovsky is a classicist who belongs to the grouping of Alexander Griboyedov and Nikolai Gogol, before Anton Chekhov and Maxim Gorky. He may not have had a particularly distinct style, but his works were what we call ‘well made.’ My modification of this play is not significant. I added a small role and a few lines. But, because I want to be totally honest about it, I put it down as adaptation rather than theatrical elaboration,» said Mastorakis. The director himself detects aspects prevailing in the world today in the Russian playwright’s classic play. «Two of the topics it addresses are, firstly, excessive debt and the fact that people talk constantly about money – even feelings are determined by money – and, secondly, social and financial ostentation,» said Mastorakis. «Rich people also existed in the past, but they didn’t trumpet it, their lifestyles were discreet. But the situation that has ensued is one of ‘I consume therefore I exist,’ or loud exhibitionism of wealth as a lifestyle. This is something we see happening very much today. These are two aspects of the play that our production emphasizes.»