BWW Reviews: Anthony Skordi is Cautious Yet Focused in ONASSIS World Premiere at Stella Adler Theatre
Suave, charming, ego maniac Aristotle Onassis comes to vivid life through the brilliantly modulated, cautiously executed and intensely focused performance of Anthony Skordi on the stage of the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood. With a sharp eye to his every move, director Bruce Katzman stages the world premiere of Onassis with impeccable detail, now through October 21.
It is always a joy to watch an actor who is so attuned to his audience. Skordi is one such actor. When female members shouted out comments, he made eye contact with them, acknowledging their input, sometimes approvingly, others times, no. His sense of spontaneity was apparent opening night as well when, at one moment, the lights came up on the wrong side of the stage and he stood in darkness - "Didn't we pay the electric bill over here?" Great ad lib! Stella Adler (who was indeed a teacher of mine) would have expressed great joy at his quick thinking and no nonsense approach to the work. Skordi has developed the play to include Onassis' life from boyhead in Smyrna, Turkey to his death in France in 1975 at the age of 69. He talks about the terrible tragedies that befell his homeland, his family, including his grandmother 'yaya', his uncle, who was publicly hanged, and his son Alexander who died far too young when his plane crashed in Athens. There are his great love affairs, especially the notorious one with Maria Callas - in spite of his loathing of opera - and his marriages first to Athina Livanos, daughter of the Greek shipping magnate and later to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. 'Tina' gave him his two children Alexander and Christina, after whom his famous yacht Christina O was named. Onassis wanted to marry mainly to have an heir to his billions. From an early age, when he left his tycoon father in Greece to sail to South America, he avowed to amass a fortune and become one of the most successful businessmen in the world. That he did, without formal schooling, "Life is the best education". Despite his many fruitful liaisons with women, he never found that real sense of happiness that his uncle had taught him about: keeping wife, children and family the top priorities in life. His tobacco, oil tankers, ships and aircraft carriers - business in general - became his obsession and took most of his time.
Skordi has a great sense of humor and uses it effectively throughout the play. At the top, he talks about the shadow the crucifix cast on his bedroom wall when he was a boy, preventing him from sleeping because it "scared the shit out of me" or about why women appreciate him: "They see me taller, standing on my money". In modulating the performance, in taking his time, he fully experiences the pain as well as the joy, like his yaya's death and that of Alexander, who meant everything to him. Much of the passion that was Onassis is deeply, unflinchingly expressed in Skordi's vibrant portrayal.
John Fairbairn has built a functional set to include Ari's various offices and living rooms around the world, an altar, the deck of a ship, which includes Christina O, and a table and stool representing the dining and drinking areas of several international establishments. Katzman estasblishes an excellent pace and keeps the blocking circular and brisk. Skordi relishes every move he makes and every word he says, inhabiting the character from the inside out. Based on extensive research and intense channeling, he has found the truth that was Onassis.
See Onassis! It depicts a man who spends so much of his time becoming rich that he doesn't stop long enough to fully enjoy what he has. Skordi as playwright offers a fairly universal and sage message for all to follow. And in your enjoyment of the play, you will be captivated as well by the magnificent artistry of Anthony Skordi's acting.