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Male psyche dissected December 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Stage & Theater.

Dimitris Papaioannou’s ‘2’ examines the rift between obligation and desire

The production is performed by an all-male cast, against the background of Constantinos Vita’s music and also bearing the signature of Angelos Mendis, the artistic director and costume designer. Due to great demand, performances have now been extended to the end of January.

Following a long period of anticipation and heavy discussions, Dimitris Papaioannou’s latest production, “2” finally opened at the newly renovated Pallas Theater last Friday. The production is an inventively blended combination of dance, movement and acting, all united against the background of Constantinos Vita’s music, with Angelos Mendis on board as artistic director and costume designer.

Initially scheduled for a 20-day run, performances have been extended to the end of January because demand has been so great.

With this powerful show, Papaioannou has returned to his own explorations, briefly interrupted by the Athens 2004 Olympic ceremonies, of which he was concept creator. The ceremonies are the last thing one should have in mind when going to see the show.

Performed by an all-male cast, “2” gives the impression of a highly in-depth, cruel yet very inventive dissection of the male psyche. The title reflects the need for inner unity in a futile attempt to combine the stereotypes imposed by society and one’s genuine desires.

The main character, played by actor Aris Servetalis, embarks on a journey of self-discovery. The stage itself, at times resembling an airport lounge with its conveyor belts, is symbolic of the journey where the leading character encounters loneliness and a lack of communication. Two men run parallel to each other but in opposite directions on the conveyor belts; despite their efforts, in a powerful scene with captivating movement, they can never stand still to meet just long enough for one to light the other’s cigarette. They end up losing each other as they gradually drift apart.

Papaioannou demonstrates that all efforts to fit our desires into our daily routine are hopeless. Servetalis’s character makes desperate attempts to fit bits of shredded paper as well as a balloon, the symbol of his creativity and sensitivity, into one bucket. He is unable to do so, as the bucket can only hold the paper or the balloon, but not both. No matter how hard he tries to combine his obligations with his dreams, it appears that the two just cannot go together. Men are not allowed to express what they really feel but instead drown their desires: The shredded bits were torn at a torturous pace in a previous scene, set in a lethally sterile and bureaucratic office, full of people with television sets instead of heads.

Man’s dual and contradictory nature is also reflected in the two men who stand behind each side of a rotating wall and only appear one at a time, men who in fact represent just one person.

With an endless display of highly inventive ideas, Papaioannou mocks the violence that runs through every aspect of our daily lives and which we have come to accept as natural. How can you truly discover yourself and respect your inner wishes and at the same time remain part of a whole? How can a man strike a balance between what is expected of him by society and what he really wants to express? What is the extent of people’s loneliness today? These are some of the questions that the audience is left to ponder at the end of the 100-minute long performance.

Even sex, which is supposed to be an act of joy and intimacy, is carried out in a repressive way, almost like a compulsion. It is presented as a purely biological need, which it is of course, to a certain extent, but also as something imposed. When at some point Servetalis’s character joins a group of men who are simulating sex while relieving themselves in the urinals, one cannot help but think of the unbearable “must have sex” pressure which not only defines the timing of the act but also determines its circumstances, flattening any possibility of spontaneity and pleasure. Society simply does not tolerate male sensitivity. A man dancing on stage, with one leg dressed in a stocking and a high-heeled shoe, feels compelled to keep shooting at it, hence rebuking the more sensitive and creative, or “feminine,” aspect of his nature. Every need for tenderness, even as one of the dancers cuddles up to the huge Barbie doll, the only female presence in the entire performance, is camouflaged by violence.

Mass culture as it is imposed on us is a recurring theme in “2” translated into men’s passion over football and their attendance at cheap, low-caliber Greek music clubs, which they feel obliged to go to even if they don’t have any fun and where they wonder if those around them feel the same way. This theme becomes even more apparent when Papaioannou decides to mock our modern worship of the perfect body by having his performers work out compulsively at the gym and then treat themselves to a hammam, in an aesthetically very intriguing scene.

Sharp, observant and merciless, but always with an acute sense of humor, Papaioannou probes deep into men’s dilemmas and pokes fun at the futility of coming to terms with their dual nature.

Pallas Theater, 3 Voukourestiou Street, Athens, tel 210 3213100. As demand is high, book as soon as possible. Tickets can also be purchased on tel 210 2005050 and online at www.ticketshop.gr.

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