Dissecting post-WWII society

Poet T.S. Eliot’s play «The Cocktail Party» is one of director Varvara Mavromati’s favorite theater texts. That is why she suggested staging it for the Greek Festival and her wish has now become reality. The work with which T.S. Eliot dissected the mentality and the characters of the bourgeoisie immediately after World War II comes to life at 260 Pireos this week; the production opened yesterday and runs to tomorrow. The play begins and ends with a party. There are seven characters on stage, who, during the entire performance, try to find a solution to the problems plaguing their relationships with each other. Eliot, with his penetrating poet’s look, portrays the problems of marriage and isolation as well as the path toward salvation. «When Eliot wrote this work, in 1949, all of Europe was coming out of a terrible war and obviously everyone was looking for a way to change things. Today we experience many changes on a daily basis,» Mavromati told Kathimerini shortly before the premiere. «What makes this play contemporary is the powerful presence of the first person,» she added. «The characters move very strongly within the ‘I;’ they are vain and try to assert themselves. They have great problems trying to listen to each other. The second person, ‘you,’ only exists as a means to accuse the other. And that is something that, ultimately, leads to loneliness.» Mavromati further explained that the performance is full of constant question-and-answer dialogues in which the people don’t really reply to each other, but answer only superficially, leaving the dialogues incomplete. «It is a work with seven leading actors, because the play delves into the different aspects of each character. The presence of psychoanalysis is strongly felt and these scenes have a good sense of humor. Maybe this is the reason why we have all loved this work. The issues that Eliot tackles may be heavy, but the piece itself has been given a glossy veneer. All the characters suffer from the incredible lightness of being, the same way that we do,» she said. Dead-end conversations Seven prominent Greek actors from all generations, namely Lazaros Georgakopoulos, Maya Lyberopoulou, Aris Lembessopoulos, Alexandra Sakellaropoulou, Christos Stergioglou, Marissa Triantafyllidou and Omiros Poulakis, bring Eliot’s characters and their dead-end conversations to life. They argue, they disagree, they come into conflict with each other and they all search for their own truth. Eliot places his characters at a crossroads where, coming face to face with self-knowledge, they have to make a choice. Engrossed in their vanity and in their effort to survive within their mediocrity, they are tragic without knowing it. They are as tragic – and simultaneously funny – as those people around us who always believe that nothing is happening. The text has been translated by Giorgos Depastas. The sets are designed by Manolis Pantelidakis and the costumes by Nikos Harlaftis. The music is by Constantinos Beta and the lights by Katerina Maragoudaki. «The Cocktail Party» is being staged tonight and tomorrow at 260 Pireos, Tavros, next to the School of Fine Arts. For information and tickets, contact the Greek Festival box office (39 Panepistimiou, tel 210.327.2000).