Diplos Ellinikos (Διπλός Ελληνικός) literally means “double Greek” and it is not a reference to a Greek who eats too much baklava or galaktobouriko. It refers to the way you take your Greek coffee and it is the title of George Skandalis’s new play.
It is a frenetic farce done at fever pitch Imagine someone driving a Ferrari on a side street in Toronto and behaving as if you were on the Indy 500 track. There is no slowing down.
The main characters are Hara (Stella Mastrogiannakou who also plays Kafetzou) and Paraskevi (Deme Delis), two friends looking for love. They go to Madame Electra (Irene Bithas), a kafetzou meaning a woman who can tell your fortune, past, present and future, by reading the remains of your Greek coffee cup. But Madame Electra can accomplish the same by smelling certain parts of their bodies. I will not tell which ones, but she concluded and concludes that Hara is in love with Vasili and Paraskevi is in love with all the men in the neighbourhood.
Hara and Paraskevi go to a restaurant and Hara sees Vasilis (Gerasimos Pagoulatos) proposing to Maria (Rania Bampasi). Shock, dismay, furor. How can he do this to Hara who is in love with him? But Hara does meet the waiter Yiannis (Peter Athanasopoulos) The effervescent Paraskevi suggests that Hara become a kafetzou and, skipping a few details here, she does. She puts on an ornate wig, dresses bizarrely and, presto, she is a fortune teller. With Paraskevi doing some research and with some pretty stupid (and well-off) clients Hara becomes a success story.
In the meantime, Hara has fallen in love with the aggressively honest Yiannis that we just mentioned. Maria’s prospective mother-in-law (I think) visits Hara the Kafetzou and she is convinced to break up Vasilis’s upcoming marriage. It works and Vasilis is distraught and drunk in extremis. He repents dumping Hara and phones her to rekindle the fire that had been extinguished. No luck for him and sweet revenge for Hara.
Moving right along, Yiannis’s mother Soula visits Hara as does Maria and her mother Popi (Christina Houtris), and Vasilis and his mother do the same and with that many people in Hara’s apartment the situation reaches a high pitch of chaos with off-colour jokes aplenty and possible disaster.
Nonsense. All is worked out and there is a happy ending. Oh. I did not mention that blonde in red leather pants Lena (Niki Botteas) consults Hara and, how can I put this delicately,
gets the hots for Paraskevi. The latter is revealed as a “bahsexual” as Bitha would put it and we can only assume a life of joy and fulfilment will follow.
The play has fourteen actors and with a minor exception is performed at break-neck speeds. As in all good farces, they speak so fast and scene changes are so frequent, I could not keep up with who is who. Demi Delis speaks so fast, if there were a radar in the theatre her tongue would have received a speeding ticket or even been arrested for dangerous tongue speed. Most of the others went over the limit but the frantic pace demanded by director Scandalis left them with little choice.
Irene Bithas deserves special mention as being perhaps the most experienced comic actor in the production. She has an instinct for comedy and gets a laugh from almost any situation. Almost all the actors are part of the farcical situations and get their share of laughs. The male lovers are almost the straight men of the comedy but with the ridiculous women there is relatively little left for them.
Scandalis, who also directs the production, does not hesitate to use off-colour or should I say colourful language in the service of laughter and silly situations are his forte in a play that is unabashedly farcical. The audience reacted with gales of laughter, at times laughing for so long as to make it impossible to hear the follow-up lines.
If my memory is correct, this Skandalis’s fourth production at the Alumnae Theatre and if we feel that there is a paucity of Greek theatre in Toronto, we cannot blame him. For those who do not like live theatre, there is always plenty of baklava and galaktobouriko to wolf down.
Diplos Ellinikos by George Scandalis will continue with four more performances from November 23 to 26, 2023 inclusive at the Alumnae Theatre, 70 Berkeley Street, Toronto, Ontario.