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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Taverna (MA) - 86 minutes

It is about to be a night to remember in a popular Greek restaurant in Melbourne run by long-term proprietor Kostas (Vangelis Mourikis) in the black comedy The Taverna.

Drama after drama is played out in a matter of hours as Kostas and his employees try to navigate a series of metaphorical tightropes.

The eatery’s belly dancer Jamila (Rachel Kamath) – a young mother – fears losing her daughter to her estranged husband, Arman (Peter Paltos).

It is he who unexpectedly shows up at the diner in the company of a regular, older, wealthy female patron, Rebecca (Tottie Goldsmith).

Kostas’ architect son Angelo (Christian Charisiou) is a drug addict, who was in a relationship with one of his father’s waiters, Katerina (Emmanuela Costaras), but that went south due to his dependency. Now he is heading for a heap more trouble.

Another waiter, Sally (Emily O’Brien-Brown), is a wannabe actress being walked over by her husband, whom she forever indulges. She is about to get a crash course in belly dancing when circumstances see her step into Jamilia’s shoes.

Kostas’ chef Omer (Senol Mat) is mourning the loss of his wife and children.

A couple of belligerent patrons won’t take no for an answer ... and that ain’t the half of it.

The Taverna is well meaning but clunky, with a number of choices by writer and director Alkinos Tsilimidos (Blind Company) questionable.

One involves the dialogue around an alleged sexual assault and another the corollary to a patron being kidnapped. Playing these for laughs is dangerous and a misstep.

On that point, making a meal (literally) of a protected Australian animal has the propensity to offend many.

Also, what is to be gained (not to mention, what message does it send) by making virtually all key characters smokers?

The only thing I can think of is that is provides a device for facilitating conversation.

Surely, that is a throwback to a previous era (the latest data from Quit, which harks back to 2018, reveals the smoking rate among Victorian adults was 10.7 per cent) and merely signals that Tsilimidos took the easy way out instead of getting more creative.

Nor, does it ring true – the awkward way it is played out – that Arman would leave his young attractive wife and mother of his only child for a controlling, twice before married, uptight woman almost double her age ... notwithstanding her money.

Perhaps casting two women closer in age would have worked better.

Clearly Tsilimidos was trying to milk interpersonal conflict and there is nothing wrong with that.

Put another way, the script shows promise, although the acting is patchy at best, frequently giving over to melodrama.

A more accomplished slate of actors and a bigger budget could have done wonders.

While a lot happens in a short time, I had trouble with the flow, which often appeared unnatural.

While the majority of the dialogue is in English, Greek with subtitles also gets a decent workout.

So, too, does swearing for dramatic effect, which was decidedly overused.

While The Taverna has its moments, My Big Fat Greek Wedding it is not.

Rated MA, it scores a 4 out of 10.


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