New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Three sold-out performances of Cyprus New York Productions’ tribute to Gerasimos Stavrou’s masterpiece, “Κalinichta Margarita” at St. George and St. Demetrios Church in Manhattan November 1-3 were set to complement the October 28 commemoration of Oxi Day, and the 80th anniversary of the start of WWII. Directed by Theodoros Petropoulos and Phyto Stratis, the play was under the auspices of Consulate General of Greece New York and a percentage of the productions sales benefitted the Greek Division of the Ronald McDonald House.
Now a classic, Gerasimos Stavrou’s “Κalinichta Margarita”, based on Dimitri Hadzis’ short story “Margarita Perdikari” is a true story about life of a teacher from Ioannina, Greece during the years of the Nazi cccupation of Greece. The production, which began at a railroad station, with the return from Athens of Margarita—the hope of her family—after her graduation as a teacher, was so good, two people told the GN enthusiastically at the last performance, that they bought tickets to see it twice.
They were right. The 15-member cast—award-winning actors, composers, directors and musicians among them—proved once again that Greek actors are worthy inheritors of Greece’s legacy of ancient theatre, completely drawing the audience, seated in a semi-circle around the scene of action, into the deep texture of family relationships, the breakdown of character under oppression, the moving nature of passionate beliefs, and the upending, by war, of a generation’s potential for happiness. Phyto Stratis’ original music, lyrical piano (performed by Anna Tsoukalas Post) played when the lights were off, enhanced the relevant mood between scenes.
Angela Tsamasirou (in her first starring role) as Margarita, was Margarita, exactly as Gerasimos Stavrou had, described the character: “of a nature not at all heroic, and unsuspecting of what went on around her, raised in a house with closed and shuttered windows”, ultimately capable of extreme principle. Pericles (Stavros Markalas), proud, judgmental, seeking status. Katerina (Theodora Loukas), well-dressed and hiding a secret. Antigoni (Anna Tsoukalas Post), a devoted mother forced to supplicate. Fotini (Christina Kandiloti), made to feel insignificant, despairing. Stefanos ((Theodoros Petropoulos), unproductive but sincere. Stathmarhis (Chryssanthos Petsilas), desperate, true. Dervis (Phyto Stratis), with some power, willing to help. Angelike (Chrysi Sylaide), driven by her cause, the Resistance. Orestis (Tasos Karydis), driven by his cause. German soldier (Demetris Michael), relentless, inhuman. Vasili (Deodoros Pagoulis), loving, comically drunk yet tragic. Sofaki (Evangeline Zoulas), innocent, unspoiled.
As he did on the previous nights, Phyto Stratis thanked the Church of St. George and St. Demetrios Church, the Greek Division of Ronald McDonald House, Grand Benmefactors Panos and Sylvia Adamopoulos, and Mike’s Lumber and Hardware. Benefactors Atlantic Bank (Nancy Papaioannou, President). Zoulas Family. Patrons Ismini Michaels, among other supporters, Anna and Elias Neofotistos, Stella Kokolis (Federation of Greek American Educators, among other Sponsors, Supporters, Friends, and the cast and crew of the production.
He also asked the audience to light candles in the church for those like Margarita Perdikari and those listed on the plaque in the church hall, who served, “whose courage and bravery must never be forgotten.”
The subject of the play is the modern history of Greece, he said, stressing the great importance of historical memory for Greek Americans in this and the next generation. Cyprus-born Phytos Stratis’s great talent has enhanced New York culture and that of the Greek American community, fulfilling the mission of Cyprus New York Productions to unites Cyprus and New York by sharing its cultural diversity through literature, drama, theater, poetry, music and dance.
At the last performance, the element of reality created by a wandering cast in period costume may have differed from the other performances, as it was subtle, but the German officer taking tickets was so shatteringly real it was terrifying. “TICKET!” he screamed in a high register, thrusting out his open palm. The GN had no ticket. “TICKET!” he screamed again, looming tall. Touching his palm lightly with the hope of making him human made it worse; he jerked back his hand as if it was on fire. Finally, I wasn’t arrested. Demetris Michael, Byzantine chanter, let me in.