The Greek Community of Toronto is back into theatre production. The first staging by The Adult Theatre Group of the Greek Community of Toronto, to give them their full name, is Veggera by Elias Kapetanakis. It is a comedy of manners that was first produced in 1894.
Veggera gets an ambitious production directed by the Greek Community’s new theatre director Maria Kordoni. Veggera means a visit or more than a visit because it implies entertainment and soiree may be a better translation.
Cast of Veggera. Photo: George Gekas
The uncouth Mr. Neroulos (Ioannis Dimitriou) and the unsophisticated Mrs. Neroulos (Eirini Moschaki) are visited by the high-toned Mr. Stenos (Demetrios Kobiliris) and the haughty Mrs. Stenos (Rania Babasi). They are accompanied by their handsome nephew Nikos (Petros Pehlivanoglou).
Mr. and Mrs. Neroulos have two nubile but immature daughters, Marika (Athina Viopoulou) and Katina (Stavroula Krissilas), and Pipis, an obnoxious son played by Dimitris Dimitriou, a grade four student and a scene stealer. The Neroulos family is sufficiently well off to afford a maid (Iro Vakoufari) who is, of course, dense and incompetent. Froso (Maria Diolitsi) is another visitor to add to the women attracted to Nikos.
That sets up the comic situation with Mr. Neroulos boring the daylights out of Mr. Stenos who wants to get out of there but feels socially obligated to stay. Mrs. Stenos is driven up the wall by Mrs. Neroulos and the visit is topped off with the maid spilling coffee on her (Mrs. Stenos’s) dress. Nikos’s attempt at amusing the young ladies and vice versa is a disaster. In the meantime, the bratty son is wreaking havoc every time he runs on the stage and you know that this veggera is not going to end well.
Kordoni directs everyone to act effusively and use and sometimes overuse their hands. Kobiliris with his upturned collar and tie is the epitome of snobbery and Rania Babasi looks like she would rather clean stables than be with these peasants. Moschaki and Dimitriou are trying to show that they are sophisticated and they display the opposite as do their daughters.
Cast of Veggera. Photo: George Gekas
The evening starts with a “pre-show” called All the World is One Hug directed by Kordoni. A troupe of children dressed like birds are the inhabitants of a lake. They recite poetry as they try to establish a modus vivendi on the lake. They are cute, have some mishaps and the audience just loves them.
A few words about director Maria Kordoni. She is replacing Nancy Athan-Mylonas who was at the helm of theatre, music and dance productions at the Greek Community for more than two decades. Kordoni graduated from Theatre Empros drama school in 2000 and her biographical note shows considerable acting experience and some directing exposure, all of it in Greece. Most of the actors in Veggera appear to be relatively recent immigrants from Greece. The youngsters in All the World are Canadian-born. There is immense talent available in the Greek community. She will need to find it, nurture it and display it. A better venue is a sine qua non. I am not sure how much the people in the back rows of the Polymenakio Centre were able to see.
A postscript. We accept the fact that part of the mission of the Community is to educate us. By having an opportunity to see Veggera, we learn of its existence and we want to know more about the play and the author.
So who is playwright Elias Kapetanakis? The programme gives us some information and Wikipedia tells us that he was a playwright, gives his dates (1858-1922) and names the three plays that he wrote. Bruce Merry’s Encyclopedia of Modern Greek Literature does not list him at all. Linos Politis in A History of Modern Greek Literature ignores him completely and Mario Vitti in his History of Modern Greek Literature does not mention him at all either. The Readers Encyclopedia of World Drama has an extensive write up about Modern Greek theatre but Kapetanakis is not included.
Alas, even the 4498-column Orthographic and Encyclopedic Lexicon “Ilios” omits him. It does include one Kimon Kapetanakis (born 1900) as a writer of comedies, operettas and revues.
But there is a bright spot. Dodoni Editions published Veggera and two other pays by Kapetanakis in 1992 and the book seems to be still available in bookstores in Greece.
Now that the Greek Community is back in theatre productions, our education is bound to improve as is our enjoyment of Greek plays.