Things to make Yia-Yia gasp

A mouthful: Costa Carastravrakis expounds on everything from his name to the best souvlaki, in Desperately Seeking Souvlaki, at Theatre on the Square until 16 July. Photograph by Philip Kuhn.

COSTA CARASTRAVRAKIS HAS everything. From a name that gets the tongues of non-Greeks in knots before they even try to say it, to a sexual identity that gets the gossipy tables of flashy Greek mommies waiting for school to be out fiercely aflutter, to a mother with legendary wrath and even more legendary protectiveness for her son. You can experience it all in Desperately Seeking Souvlaki, a one-man comedy directed by Renos Spanoudes, at Theatre on the Square in Sandton, until 16 July.

It’s replete with a diversity of cultural and self-deprecating Greek community jokes, ripping apart the stereotypes from the women’s moustaches all the way down to Athenian icons bearing resting bitch faces in church. And while the jokes, with a nip and a tuck, could lean in the direction of any other kind of South African immigrant, be it Portuguese or Nigerian, or Russian or Jewish, Carastavrakis delivers them with a nifty hand and a likeable persona.

Indeed, you fall a little in love with the mix of vulnerability and brashness he projects, with his slipping out of the closet amidst a sprinkling of salt and a lashing of disapproval wrapped in a making of peace; and of his playing with levels of acceptance as he parades a Zulu lover into the mix, not without a hefty dollop of trepidation in the wake of a bullied childhood sauced with the criticism of severe flamboyantly-decked aunties willing to judge on every level, at every turn.

Desperately Seeking Souvlaki plays with slang and innuendo, food and sex as boldly as it touts brand names of the ilk of Tashas and Pappas, Versace and Saheti, but it doesn’t miss a beat in unrolling a respectable script that is at once palatable and rude, fondly critical and funny, even if on a scale that flirts with well-established stereotypes. It’s an evening out that begs pairings with dinner and traditional Greek dishes as such, and one that will give you the kind of warm fuzzy feelings that loadshedding and water outages seems to steal from you, each evening.

  • Desperately Seeking Souvlaki is directed by Renos Spanoudes. Written and performed by Costa Carastavrakis, it is produced by Daphne Kuhn and stage managed by Regina Dube. It is at Theatre on the Square in Sandton until 16 July. Call 011 883-8606.

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