Reviewed by James Karas
A Knight for Vassoula is a perfect fit for the Greek Community of Toronto’s Nefeli Theatre and its audience. It is a light comedy by Kostas Pretenderis and Assimakis Gialamas that has hilarious plot complications and a happy ending.
Director and Choreographer Nancy Athan-Mylonas has made some necessary adaptations to make the play comprehensible to members of the audience whose knowledge of Greek is still under construction, added half a dozen dance routines and provided a highly entertaining evening at the Hamaskayin Theatre in the Armenian Youth Centre, Toronto.
Madame Clio (Maria Hadzis) is old, rich and enamoured of tales of knights and chivalry. She has hired the pretty, young Vassoula (Stella Mastrogiannakou) as her companion and reader of romantic tales. Clio’s butler Aristidis (Dimitri Manikas) is an irreverent servant while lawyer Theodore (Fotios Papadopoulos) is a bit of a fool and a snob who speaks in high-toned katharevousa.
The plot goes into high gear when Vassoula’s friend Pinelope (Varvara Papadopoulos) arrives at Clio’s house with her boyfriend Mitso (Vasilis Manikas). Discovered by Clio, the friends pretend that Mitso is in fact Vassoula’s husband who works on a ship owned by Clio. No sooner is that lie served than Captain Diamantis (Demetre Anastasiou) of the ship where Mitso is supposedly working, arrives. Luckily, the astute and humane Captain plays along with the ruse and the plot continues.
Clio dies leaving a fortune to Vassoula in her “married name:” Pinelope and Mitso marry; they need to get divorced so that Vassoula can marry Mitso for a day so she can get her hands on the inheritance; the lawyer is after Vassoula and the audience is laughing its head off at the complications.
Lissome Stella Mastrogiannakou waves her hands, throws her head back and gives an energetic performance as Vassoula. Hadjis is the kindly Clio who does not want strangers invading her house in her absence, especially a man like Mitso. She is a stimulus for the comedy.
Mop-haired Mitso is somewhat naïve, a bit eccentric, maybe dense but very funny. His first wife Pinelope is his opposite. Sharp-nosed, greedy and selfish she provides the hurdles that must be jumped before true love will triumph in the end.
The pompous lawyer throws in some hurdles of his own and Papadopoulos manages both the tough high-fallutin’ lines and comedy inherent in the character. The humane Captain is the opposite of the lawyer and Anastasiou gets all the laughs due to the character.
Vassoula’s mother drops in near the end and once again, I must pay tribute to the comic talent of Irene Bitha-Georgalidis. She almost steals the show and gets some of the biggest laughs. She is relatively restrained in her performance. There was room to give her a rural accent and more pronounced movements and gestures. The director keeps her in check (quite properly) but Bitha-Georgalidis can turn almost any line into a comic gem with a simple vocal intonation, a gesture or a look and she does all of those things.
The play is a perfect vehicle for an eager amateur group. Athan-Mylonas adds a number of “narrators” who explain the plot in English. Lydia Soldevila-Tombros is credited with the English excerpts.
Nefeli has a large dance group and Athan-Mylonas wants to showcase them. She does so be inserting about half a dozen dance sequences during the performance of the play. There is little in the plot of A Knight to justify the interruptions in the plot flow. The show stopped and the dancers came on stage in a number of different costumes, performed their routine, moved off and the play continued except for the fact that there are dancers and they must be used. (In fairness, I should mention that the 1968 movie based on the play does have a couple of dance routines).
This is a classic “Nancy Approach” but in a smoothly flowing plot, the dance routines run the risk of becoming an interruption. People who do not know Athan-Mylonas’s style, may have been scratching their heads at the inserts. Is it not possible to put on a dance and music showcase at the beginning or perhaps the middle of the play?
In the end, the energy of the performers, the enthusiasm of the audience and the sense of community of all involved, provided for a highly entertaining night at the theatre.___
A Knight for Vassoula by Kostas Pretenderis and Assimakis Gialamas opened on February 1 and will play on February 2, 3 and 10, 2013 at the Hamaskayin Theatre, Armenian Youth Centre, 50 Hallcrwon Place, Toronto. Ontario. www.theatre-nefeli.com or www.greekcommunity.org Telephone (416) 425-2485