Monday, April 15, 2019


James Karas

It is worth repeating that the Greek community of Toronto is seeing a new influx of immigrants from Greece. They are young, educated, ambitious and willing to engage in cultural activities. Together with young Canadians of Greek origin, they are bringing Greek drama to Toronto as never seen before. One such group is the theatre company Epi Skinis (On Stage) which has produced a comedy by a modern writer at Papermill Theatre, Toronto.

Pentanostimi is Lena Divani’s 2006 farce-cum-satire based loosely in Cinderella and (a friend tells me) satirizes Greek television cooking shows. Pentanostimo (extremely delicious?) is apparently the current buzzword on cooking shows that loquacious chefs use routinely to describe their creations. The word has been changed into a noun and the name of the main character of the play is Pentanostimi (Maria Dilitsi), the Cinderella of the play.

Pentanostimi has two step-sisters, the dumb bimbo Panorea (Panagiota Vogdou) and the smart but nasty Panareti (Rania Mpampasi). They run the 2½ Restaurant badly and abuse Pentanostimi. That is one half of the plotline.

The other half consists of Polydoros (Dimitris Kompiliris), young, rich, handsome, principled and the heir to a cooking magazine. His assistant Polykratis’ (Yiannis Kassios) central interest is attractive women. He suggests that they run a cooking contest open mostly to pretty women and not necessarily focused on their culinary skills.

The two plots intersect when the stepsisters see their opportunity to grab a husband and, since they can’t cook at all, they order Pentanostimi to prepare killer dishes for them. She prepares a dynamite tomato soup.

But wait. The young heir is shy and his unscrupulous assistant takes on the role of his boss. “Cinderella” enters the soup in the contest incognito, the sisters go for the assistant, the heir falls in love with you-know-who and he goes looking for her, slipper or is it spoon, in hand.

The play has two more characters that I could not make much of. There is Afro (Ioanna Rizou), an extra-terrestrial robot and a Voice (Eirini Moschaki) which is supposed to control everything. I don’t think the characters added anything to the play despite efforts by the actors to make them amusing.

Mpampasi as Panareti reminded me of Morticia in the 1960’s sitcom The Addams Family. Black lipstick, lots of poses, sarcastic and pushy, she got the laughs. Vogdou was full of energy and empty of brains and we liked her and laughed at her foibles. The nice but abused Pentanostimi of Diolitsi gets our sympathy and support and, you guessed it, she does get the prince.

Kassios has a natural comic flair and his Polykratis pretending to be Polydoros is a fine source of laughter. Kompiliris plays the necessary straight man to his assistant’s shenanigans.

The play and the performance take us to cooking shows in Athens where people, especially enthusiastic chefs, may adopt machine-gun speed when they talk. Many in the audience are not used to it and speed at the cost of unclear enunciation is not a virtue.

The set consists of two simple playing areas. On one side there is a counter representing the restaurant and on the other side a couch representing the office of the magazine. It works very well.

Maria Kordoni directs and is responsible for set design and costumes. Sophia Smyrnioudi is the musical director and we hear Cinderella sing a couple of verses of “Over the Rainbow” and Polydoros expresses his newfound-love with a few bars of “Maria” from West Side Story.

With apologies for any mishaps in transliterating the names.
PENTANOSTIMI by Lena Divani was performed three times on April 6 and 7, 2019 at the Papermill Theatre, 67 Pottery Road, Toronto, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor – Culture of The Greek Press.

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