LEONIDAS PROUSALIDIS’ THEATRE,
- Tonia Tsamouri, Dramaturg – Dr Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki
Leonidas Prousalidis wrote his first play, Seven Reasonable Answers, in 2004 and his second one, Wagon in the Water, six years later. He is a new author and young man, in whose plays – and especially his first – one can trace his interest for his contemporary reality, which is the trigger for writing the play. On the other hand, his second and most recent - so far - work balances between reality and dream, echoing Strindberg (Dream Play, To Damascus), Beckett (Happy Days) and Pinter (Silence, Landscape).
Seven Reasonable Answers addresses an issue that is constantly in the news, affects a large portion of society and concerns the whole of society; drugs. In the play, Prousalidis has ordinary, everyday people as protagonists. It is comprised of monologues from 7 different persons, without ever showing any of them interacting on stage. These are people who lead a "normal" life, but at the same time sink in the silence of their thoughts and their unattainable desires.
An event, however, signals the beginning of their confessions-apologies, in which they talk about things never before articulated or perhaps even realized. It is unclear exactly who they are addressing, although they speak in the second person: is it their respective spectator/listener, or their own selves? To whomever they choose to speak, they unfold their fears, anxieties and frustrations. At the same time, they put their spectators in the dilemma of which story they will identify with or which one they will understand/justify better. For their part, the protagonists attempt to explain their stance and some of them are also looking, perhaps, for compassion within their extremely difficult and sorrowful life (such is the case with Anna, Jenny’s mother). The manner in which we learn these people’s inner thoughts and feelings is revealing, and Prousalidis’ style plays a very important role in this; it is shockingly real, earnest.
As George, one of the protagonists states:
“Every day, all day I do something. This shows that I am alive. Then, I realize that the whole day I am doing something because I am alive (my emphasis).
In the modern Western lifestyle, where excessive occupation and multiple activities are considered proof of success and wealth, George’s disarming confession shatters this stereotype by identifying the essence of life. At the end of the play we find out that George, the central character around whom the other protagonists’ stories are tightly joined and twisted, has committed suicide. What led George to suicide, however, is not the drugs, but Jenny’s absence from his life. Two young people perish before they have the opportunity to actualize their common dreams; a contemporary Romeo and Juliet.
As is evident from the other heroes’ stories (Hara, Despina), as well as in Wagon in the Water, love in Prousalidis’ work is a catalyst in people’s lives, notwithstanding the fact that in neither of the texts do we follow a sheer love story. In his plays there are lost loves, damaged relationships, old loves, but not a great erotic passion in the bud. In Seven Reasonable Answers we learn from the beginning of George's narration that, until the day Jenny died, it was his love for her that defined him. Jenny is also the one with which George makes his last dreams. Once he realizes that he has forever lost the “we”, he decides to put an end to his life, pushed by the lack of perspective to be released from his unbearable loneliness.
On the other hand, in Wagon in the Water, three female characters constantly experience stalemate romances. Olia even consented to her family’s murder to satisfy her lover, albeit one that left her eternally waiting. Tonya, much like Olia, lives in disappointment, always expecting someone - in this case Timos - but without hope. This is also true for Maria who has, however, come to terms with the fact that it is hopeless to expect anyone; as she explains to Tonya, "romances end". These three women are linked by love and its quest – at some point in their lives. One appears to be a continuation of the other; modern Clytemnestrae, Iphigeniae and Cassandrae; mistresses, mothers, daughters and companions, destroyed by their loves and by men.
Prousalidis’ second play starts in a realistic setting. However, the character who appears to be the more realistic and the one closer to modern reality, Tonya, in the end disturbs and deconstructs her contemporary reality for the sake of the past. The play, divided into images, begins and ends with Tonya - or rather with her dreamlike memories. All these people, all this "troupe", are distant echoes from a life spent and lost. Tonya, however, is left behind waiting and wondering through Olia: "I wonder when I will be done. I want these things to stop [...] I do not want other people. I don't want this thing any more." She is Timos’ mother, Marias’ daughter, Olias’ rival; the one that brings everyone to life through her memory.
Via his writing, Prousalidis portrays social themes such as the human loneliness and alienation among people, the death of young people, the relations between spouses, parents and children, but also of people in general. At the core of his interest, however, lies love; for him, a life without love is unbearable and endless. To all these issues, he adds memory and memories; this is why it appears that certain patterns, such as snow and water, are repeated: natural elements that fade or/and sweep away the traces of life. As Anna says, "I wish it wouldn’t stop snowing until the snow buries us all and everything turns white, frozen, dead in only one day" (Seven Reasonable Answers).
This is an author whose writing is recognizable; although modern, it is absolutely fitting to every one of his heroes. Moreover, it is realistic and has the potential to evoke to the spectator feelings and thoughts that sweep him away in his works. Finally, he creates vivid images, conveying with simplicity the most complex issues of modern society and a life that passes and vanishes with the first snowflakes...
[Translation: Elena Delliou]