Lyto Triantafyllidou’s Los Angeles production of the renowned play “Mistero Buffo” by Dario Fo, a one-man performance starring Greek actor Panos Vlahos, just won the prestigious 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival’s Encore Producers’ Award. As a result, the play’s Hollywood run has been extended!
The production has been touring the US for over a year; it was first presented at West Park Presbyterian Church in May 2016, and then won its first award as the 2016 Best Physical Theater Show at the United Solo Theater Festival.
We spoke to both Panos and Lyto about the success and wonderful critical reception of “Mistero Buffo”, a simultaneously dark and comic tale told through the eyes of protagonist Guilare.
Lyto explained Guilare’s role in the play to us, stating, “Our protagonist is a clown, narrating biblical stories, marking a number of power figures: the landowners, the Pope and death himself.” She continued, “After some time working on Mistero Buffo, Panos and I understood that our show was taking a side against fear….We wanted to explore the tension between laughter and the prudence of restrictions that religion imposes.”
For Panos himself, the play is quite personal. “It’s a very demanding play,” he told us, “not only because it’s a one-man show, but also because it tackles deep issues like religion and the role of man in the modern world. It’s a little close to home for me because I am also trying to discover my role, not only in this world, but also in this country.”
The 32-year-old Greek actor, who starred in the popular TV comedy “Min Arhizeis Ti Mourmoura”, as well as in plenty of others films, shows, and theater in his homeland, including productions of the prestigious National Theater of Greece, has hit the ground running in the US in the last year since his move here.
Among the challenges that face Greek actors in Los Angeles, learning to express themselves in a language other than their mother tongue is a major hurdle. “It’s very challenging for an actor who doesn’t natively speak the language,” says Panos. “After all, my challenge is not only to play the role, but also to connect with the audience, who is an integral part of the play. The audience and I are a team that reacts off each other, and we take on different roles to assume a common social reality.”
Lyto also commented on this intriguing relationship the play establishes with the audience, stating, “freedom of thinking, satire, and laughter become the miracle on our stage. There is no fear when we laugh!”
In the past, the play has caused controversy and been outright banned by the Church for its content, which questions a lot of accepted religious ideas and structures. When it was broadcast in Italy, the Vatican immediately denounced it as, “the most blasphemous show in the history of television”.
This might have actually pleased original playwright Dario Fo, who, as Lyto Triantafyllidou reminded us, famously said, “Laughter does not please the mighty”.
Though both director and actor are honored to have received the Encore Producers’ Award from the Hollywood Fringe Festival, they seem to be happier about the fact that it gives them a chance to reach more people with the play’s added performances.
As Panos puts it, “The priority is always to create something; to give birth to something new. It is difficult to create something, and in this country, it is also difficult to get it seen and to get it on a stage. So during this whole process, my aim is to stay perceptive, keep myself open, and keep my mind and soul clear; only in this way can I interpret what’s going on in the world and society, in order to translate it into art and stories and plays, and then transfer it to an audience – because without an audience, the play can’t occur.”
It always takes a team, both behind the scenes and sitting in the theater, to create a truly successful production. In addition to the engaged audience, Panos was extremely grateful for “Lyto, Polys Kyriacou (producer), Natasha Katerinopoulos (producer), and George Kalogeratos; this play wouldn’t exist without them, and I am ever so thankful to them.”
If you haven’t yet seen the award-winning, controversial play, the next performances will be on July 14 at 8 PM, and July 15 at 9:30 PM, at Hollywood’s Complex Theater on Santa Monica Boulevard. You can also check out the production in Chicago this September.
For more information on the play and tickets, you can check the Mistero Buffo website.