A very pleasant surprise

«Ladies and gentlemen, good evening! This is a Green Card! The Green Card allows the bearer to live and work in this country. It can be renewed every three months, six months, 12 months, or never.» The actor holds up the blown-up card telemarketing-style. His presentation is upbeat, the music lively. Georgian David, like his fellow actors Chris from Bulgaria and Enke from Albania, is a migrant in Greece (they have all been here for about 10 years) and a drama school graduate. The performance they are appearing in at the Neos Cosmos Theater, «One in Ten,» is based on their experiences as migrants. Directed by Laertes Vassileiou (who grew up in Tirana and lives in Athens), it opened just a few days ago and is already enjoying box office success. The composition of the audience is also impressively varied, with well-coiffed elegant ladies accompanied by suited gentlemen making up a fair percentage. The show is sparse, bitter, sarcastic, at times accusatory and at others desperate. It has nerve, humor and rage, and balances between reaction and reconciliation, marginalization and integration. The only prop, a Greek flag made of colored light bulbs on the wall, flickers on and off, fades in and out. The nation is represented as an artistic installation – in a disarming creation by Angelos Mendis. The three actors alternate roles that can be found in real life. They mop, scour and scrub, wait tables and prostitute themselves («I’ll do anything for 50 euros, but I’m not gay»), they change names, stare at the audience, reminisce and smile, get angry and freeze. The emotional hammering goes on for 80 minutes. For the finale, they dance to Renato Carosone’s «Tu vuo’ fa’ l’americano.» We laugh, but it is an uncomfortable laugh. The truth we have witnessed is touching and somewhat embarassing. The audience bursts into applause. The most ardent of them are middle-aged, elderly couples. They yell «Bravo!» and summon the actors back for another ovation. I’m surprised. Maybe I’m biased, but the performance erases that. Statistics point to a xenophobic Greek society. Naturally, they also mention today’s young people, who coexist and solve their differences by mingling with others. Second-generation migrants are no longer supporting the Greek economy as cheap labor, but they are supporting the country with a new aesthetic, art, dialogue, thought and communication. All we have to do is listen and try to understand. They are here, beside us, across from us. They watch us as we watch them. They judge us as we judge them. That is the way forward for art and society – when stories are no longer found in the news bulletins, but in the realm of art.