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Venus and Adonis > Masque fit for a lesser king November 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Americas.
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Toronto Masque Theatre gets an extra bit of credit for having its head and heart in the right place in a double bill devoted to the ancient Greek story of doomed love between Venus and Adonis.

The first half of the program blends Shakespeare’s raunchy verses with incidental music and dance. The second half presents the 320-year-old one-act opera by English composer John Blow (1649-1708). Not really an opera, it was a “masque for the entertainment of the king”, Charles II. The masque was opera’s predecessor, a night of theatrical revelry that included spoken word, music, dance and singing.

Toronto Masque Theatre tries to recreate this with a modern twist, led by violinist Larry Beckwith and a cadre of period-performance specialists. Masques, created for the royal court and the aristocracy, were lavish affairs, not something a small company can now hope to duplicate on a shoestring budget.

So do you produce a masque in a black box, or do you try to add what little visual ornamentation you can?

Beckwith and company opt for the latter, and this is their best-looking effort to date. But it still feels like a pauper’s parody of what happened last night at the new performance palace down the road.

Fortunately, the forces assembled on the Winchester Street Theatre’s stage last night were pretty good.

Actor Derek Boyes did a masterful job of reading Shakespeare, but the instrumentalists and dancer Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière felt under-used. This left the 40-minute presentation, set against black-and-white drawings projected on a big screen, feeling too static.

The eight-person cast and eight-person Baroque-period orchestra led by Beckwith were well balanced in Blow’s opera. The singers are all young (mostly under 30) local talents with promising futures. Most notable were sopranos Michele DeBoer as Cupid and Rachel Harwood-Jones as Venus. Baritone Andrew Mahon was a suitably sturdy Adonis.

At 50 minutes, the play was over soon enough, but the music dragged much of the time, starting with a less than enthusiastic-sounding Overture. Lacoursière, who also came up with the nicely assembled, colourful costumes, was in her element during the dance sequences. Caroline Guilbault’s projected sets suited the mood nicely, as did Gabriel Cropley’s lighting.

Toronto Masque Theatre is on the right track. We can only hope their future productions will keep getting more polished.

Toronto Masque Theatre. To Saturday at the Winchester Street Theatre, 80 Winchester St. 416-410-4561.


“Medea” incorporates sign language November 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Americas.
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Theatre VCU’s bilingual “Medea” incorporates sign language.

Mary Vreeland stresses that she is someone who does not hear, not someone who cannot hear. “I believe there is great power in language,” the actress says through an interpreter. “Saying somebody ‘can’t’ do something automatically puts them at a lower status.”

Issues around status and power are clearly significant to Vreeland, and she will bring all of her passion about them to bear as the title character in the Greek tragedy “Medea” opening at Theatre VCU this weekend.

It is a play already rife with explosive personal and political relationships as the “barbarian” Medea is ultimately driven to kill her own children after being spurned by her husband. In a challenging move designed to intensify these interactions, this production will be bilingual, with American Sign Language (ASL) used concurrently with English. Though Vreeland will be the only deaf actor onstage, the entire cast learned ASL to enable this unique structure.

There is some obvious symbolism here: A Medea who communicates only through sign language reinforces the idea that women do not have a voice in society. But VCU guest director Heather Davies says that the play addresses more general questions about a society’s reaction to outsiders. “Some people are sympathetic to Medea but unskilled,” Davies explains. “Others are skilled but unsympathetic. Working with sign language allowed me to explore all of the variations.”

Davies has also incorporated drumming, original music and movement to make the production a truly eclectic mix. Vreeland, a second-year graduate student, calls her part “the role of a lifetime.” After appearing in several television shows in the 1980s, she taught for more than a dozen years in Rochester, N.Y. “This role has such depth and breadth and width,” Vreeland says. “Medea’s rage is constant, and every night I have to find new ways to work through her pain.”  

“Medea” is playing November 9-11 and 16-18 (Thursday-Saturday) at 7:30 p.m. and November 12 and 19 (Sunday) at 3 p.m. at VCU’s Raymond Hodges Theater on Park Avenue. Tickets are $5-$15. Call 828-6026 for details.

Spanakorizo (Greek spinach with rice) November 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Recipes.
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Ingredients >
1 cup olive oil
1 large white onion fine chopped
2 cloves bunch garlic fine chopped
1/2 bunch scallions sliced
1 cup carolina long grain rice rinsed
1 1/2 lbs spinach trimmed
1/2 bunch dill chopped
salt and pepper
lemon juice
1 cup water

Method >
Heat the olive oil in a wide pot
Saute the onions, scallion and garlic until soft but not brown
Add the rice and stir to coat
Add the spinach in batches and stir to down until all of has been added
Add 1 cups of water and cook over low heat until the rice is tender
Add dill after rice has been cooking 15 minutes
Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste

Salmon with Kalamata Greek olives November 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Recipes.
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Ingredients >
1/2 lb manouri Greek cheese
1/2 lb feta Greek cheese
1 small red onion fine chopped
2 tbls chopped thyme
2 tbls chopped oregano
2 tbls roasted garlic
1 tbls chopped capers
1 cup large Kalamata Greek olives sliced
1/2 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
Method >
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Combine all the ingredients except the bread crumbs and olives
Spread the cheese mixture over a 7 oz. piece of skinless salmon
Sprinkle the sliced olives then the bread crumbs over the cheese mixture and press lightly
Place the salmon into a hot pan with olive oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes then into the oven for 8-10 minutes till desired doneness.

Serves 6.

My Big Fat Greek Axia November 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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This week we’re going Greek! And this is Greek with a modern edge. Axia Taverna, according to one customer, is reminiscent of Mykonos, but it’s far closer. It’s located at 18 Piermont Road in Tenafly, New Jersey.

Axia Taverna is a bright airy, space with Greek nuances and warm pockets. The food is Alex Gorant’s creation. He’s French trained, but he strives to play up the Greek flavors of his heritage. “We’re not going to put Foie Gras into Greek cooking, but I’m not doing my grandmother’s Greek cooking either,” Gorant said.

 Take his salmon. He mixes manouri and feta cheese with herbs and garlic. From there, he layers that on the salmon and tops that with the Kalamata olives, another key Greek ingredient. Bread crumbs top it off. The fish is seared in Greek olive oil, of course, and then finished off under the broiler, served on top of spanokorizo, a Greek pilaf (spinach with rice) and it’s quite popular.

Alex Parlamis and his father Michael opened in Tenafly because this was where Alex grew up. The family has built 700 restaurants in the past 70 years but they enjoy being in the restaurant business and sharing their culture with lots of mezzes, or small plates on the menu, and sharing is encouraged. And as for the name, Axia, is a spin on the word axios (which means worthy, capable, deserving, able, meritorious) and it’s a tribute to Michael’s wife.

Greek food festival is a sweeter deal November 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora Festivals.
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It’s Fort Worth’s turn for Greek food this weekend.

The annual Greek Food Festival at a north-side church features a new treat: chocolate baklava!

As if the usual homemade baklava isn’t tempting enough, the chefs of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church have added chocolate to the honey-nut filling and drizzled the pastries with even more chocolate.

For $3, it’s worth driving to the corner of Texas 199 and Northwest 21st Street. Also on the menu: Greek chicken lunches for $9 and leg of lamb dinners for $14, or pork souvlaki ($14) and gyro sandwiches ($6). Greek coffee sells for $2, and wines are $4 per glass or $15 per bottle.

Festival admission is free. The hours are 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. The church community center is at 2020 N.W. 21st St. at Texas 199; call 817-626-5578; www.fortworthgreekfestival.com.

Greek Food and Wine Festival November 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora Festivals.
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Annual weekend festival featuring Greek food specialties, wine and ouzo, folk dancing, music and fun and games for the children kicks off; 1 to 10 p.m., Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 12250 NW Second Ave., North Miami.

Entrace is free. For more information call 305-681-1061.