Contrasting displays of unguarded vulnerability and sophisticated wit punctuate writer/director/actor Alex Malaos’ original comedy/drama entitled “With Over Two Pieces of Luggage.” His personal journey of emotional discovery that starts on the island of Cyprus becomes even more complex on the island of New York City.
Along with fellow actors Nikos Karas and Evelyn Burnett, the two act project offers a window into the modern immigrant experience and a mirror that reveals our own dilemmas as children and grandchildren of immigrants.
A frequent theme in Malaos’ work is the constant use of “twos.” Two large screens show filmed interviews with his former girlfriends, friends, employers and others. There are two supporting actors who often provide two dissimilar characterizations throughout the many vignettes. At one point, Nikos Karas is a charming beggar on the subway, pleading for food and funds. Later, he is ancient playwright Aristophanes, dressed in a glittering toga, exuberantly accepting an Academy Award! Evelyn Burnett also portrays contradictory personalities. In one vignette she is a sadistic customs inspector. In another, she is an outgoing game show hostess, revealing prizes of a lifetime.
The play’s title refers to the two pieces of luggage permitted on an airplane. One of the bags onstage is heavy and cumbersome. The other is less stylish but much, much lighter. They are not just physical representations. They are also emotional baggage representing two important choices–to dig in and fight, or to flee.
An important double effect occurs throughout the play. That is, supertitles appearing in English and Greek. Sometimes they clearly explain the actors’ intent. Other times the performers intentionally speak in only one language, without the accompanying translation. This forces the audience to interpret the player’s emotions, actions and the surrounding circumstances rather than their words. After all, isn’t coming to a new country a discovery of people, not just new streets and avenues?
In the end, a popular game show vignette is used to answer the two basic questions. Does Malaos return to the certainties of the old world or dig in and fight for his future in America?
Great sets (Christos Alexandridis), clever videos (Alex Agisilaou) and lighting/supertitles (Anastasios Samaras) add charm and humor to the evening. “With Two…” is running weekends through the middle of December at The Greek Cultural Center, located at 26-80 30th Street in Astoria. Call 718-726-7329 or surf to www.greekculturalcenter.org for reservations.
Despite unexpected snowstorms the show must go on! As always, save me a seat on the aisle.