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Greek farce: ‘Mother’ play satirizes corruption
A lineup of contemporary Greek character types parade across the stage: doting mothers criminally negligent of their children’s glaring faults; a sexually available nurse who zealously attends to her job security with a male doctor in an empty ward while her superannuated charge expires in an adjoining room; a sensationalizing tabloid journalist whose crusade to expose the corrupt minister has more to do with his past as her ex-husband than social justice; and an unfit police trainer who passes or fails recruits based on the heights of sycophancy they can scale.
The stage fairly drips with clientism and nepotism.
“I was intrigued by the idea that we the citizens are at fault over what’s happening instead of blaming the politicians,” said Ms. Kavalieratou, one of the leads. “People are not likely to do their own hard lifting but blame others — it’s easier!”
The action unfolds across a bare stage minimalistically decorated by a single symbolic prop: a shattered ancient Greek column hinting at the state of the nation today.
“It passes the message about the corruption of the Greek state and the lack of education available,” said Alexandra Sentos, an audience member who attended the play a second time.
“This theater group has no political agenda beyond showing up Greece’s social problems.”
“Theater in Greece has leveled criticism at the state since the classical era,” said Anna Stavrakopoulou, assistant professor at the Faculty of Drama in Thessaloniki’s Aristotelian University. “Tragedies also criticized social conventions but the comedies of Aristophanis were far blunter in their censure and formed the basis for the contemporary epitheorisi (a lowbrow mixture of satire with farce).”
At the end of the second act, an actor appears to commiserate with the audience over the lack of a final act, noting that “in Greece there is never a third act.”
The play climaxes with a surreal televised game show in which a hyperactive host shepherds the ancient Greeks, cantankerous priests and two mindless brats who symbolize the future through a competition to prove who is more Greek. Ultimately, the characters rip off their costumes, shed their identities and crowd onto an IKEA-style couch to munch pizza and listen to generic pop.
Perhaps the play’s most disheartening message is Mr. Sarakatsani’s ultimate conclusion: that ultimately “we Greeks like this state of affairs, we settle into an urban IKEA-manufactured dream of cheap, feel-good furniture and pizza.”
Outside the theater, guests disperse through a lobby packed with an audience waiting to attend a crowd-pleasing musical.
“The most important task is that we change our mentality, otherwise things will become very dark,” said Syvaris Lazaros, who holds a U.S. masters in business administration and works for a multinational in Greece. “We see on a daily basis what might happen if we Greeks don’t start putting back into our society.”
• Iason Athanasiadis reports on Greece through a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington.
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