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LETTERS TO EDITOR
|A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
By Jana J. Monji
Illya Darling is a 1967 Broadway musical based on the movie Never on a Sunday. The title derives from the notion that in this small Greek village of Piraeus in 1963, the happy whores didn't work on the Sabbath. While it might seem fitting for the newly formed Greek-American Theater Company of Los Angeles to choose a musical set in Greece for its inaugural production, director Angeliki Giannakopoulos fails to provide a cohesive vision to make this musical work.
Illya (a lusty Christina Concetta) is a happy-go-lucky lady of the night who doesn't have any set prices and only sleeps with men she likes. Sounds like a heterosexual man's wet dream. For some reason, Illya doesn't need a pimp, but the other ladies of ill-repute do and their pimp, Garbage (Fred Russell) works for an anonymous man called No Face (Ismail Kanater) who is the ultimate slum lord, mercilessly raising the girls' rent.
Into this mix, falls Homer (Richard Courtney), an American looking for a dream of an ancient glorious civilization that Greece once was. Enchanted by Illya's physical charms, Homer sets about educating her, not only in Greek civilization but also in European and American basics. To do so, he separates her from her friends, including a certain, virile Italian-Greek named Tonio (Theo Pagones).
Giannakopoulos doesn't delve into the motivations and goals of the individuals. Are these hookers all really happy with their profession? What of the men in the tavern where they meet? Where are their wives? Why are they there? Why must Illya pretend that the tale of Medea has a happy ending? Why does she take a swig of alcohol after a long day of lessons with Homer? Is it sadness over her occupation, her past or is Homer driving her crazy?
Giannakopoulos' direction also doesn't clearly indicate where the action takes place. The boundaries of Illya's apartment seem to dissolve to suit the moment. A table exists both inside and outside. Likewise, at the tavern the action shifts and transfers inside and outside without the audience knowing when and why the imaginary walls conveniently break down.
Certainly the enthusiasm and authenticity of this new company is winning. Athan Karras' choreography is fun. One can also appreciate their casting of less than super-model types as the whores. However, the flow of scenes remains static as if better suited for a movie than a live performance, and in a post-women's rights era still plagued by the threat of AIDS, something needs to be done to compensate for the basically dated perspective of this musical.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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