Anthoula Katsimatides, the writer and director of “Warrior Without a Cause” introduces herself to her audience. “Destined for greatness – how ya doing?” It’s that relaxed yet confident tone that makes “Warrior Without a Cause,” a self-described modern-day Greek dramedy, stand out. It is the autobiographical story of Ms. Katsimatides, a Greek-American woman trying to live up to her parents’ expectations while still having a life of her own. Despite her lifelong belief that she is meant for bigger and better things, the young Anthoula often finds herself hindered by parents who expect her to be their “καλό κορίτσι” (Greek for “good girl”), and to adhere to their strict, traditional customs. That conflict may sound familiar, but the focus on culture and heritage adds authenticity and hilarity to Ms. Katsimatides’ many ordeals. Her parents always ask, “What will people think?” They expect her to have a successful career and meet the man of her dreams, all without ever leaving the house. All that pressure to honor her family makes Anthoula feel like a prisoner in her own home. But, as she explains, when everyone expects you to be a good girl, you learn to be a good liar. The story is paced exceptionally well, especially considering that it covers nearly a lifetime of experiences. Ms. Katsimatides’ comfortable and casual attitude makes for storytelling that’s enjoyable, engaging, and easy to get lost in. Her talent for simple and charming narration makes even her most personal stories feel relatable. Whether she’s confessing to teenage flings in exotic Greek islands or dancing the traditional dances of her homeland, Ms. Katsimatides has a way of putting the audience right in the center of the action. That action consists of more than just well-timed jokes about family squabbles. Ms. Katsimatides recounts the painful loss of two brothers and her father with heartrending openness. More than a stumbling block along a linear path, loss becomes a main theme of Ms. Katsimatides’ life, one that completely changes its trajectory on more than one occasion. Tumult and tragedy become the antagonists of this warrior’s journey to shape her own destiny and bring happiness to her family and herself. Ms. Katsimatides frames her story in these mythological terms. Epic heroics are juxtaposed with the mundane realism of a daughter struggling to do right by herself and her family. It’s a welcome revamp of a classic story, and makes “Warrior Without a Cause” distinct yet universally compelling. While her impressions of her father are comedic yet nuanced, some of Ms. Katsimatides’ other characters are more simplistic in their quirks and mannerisms. Her performance is lovely overall, and her story is captivating. It is a gem of a show for anyone who’s ever known the joys and frustrations of growing up in a multicultural household. Check it out – it’s a cause worthy of a warrior. “Warrior Without a Cause” Written and Performed by Anthoula Katsimatides Oct. 12 at 6pm, Oct. 13 at 2pm, Oct. 14 at 7:30pm Photo: courtesy of the production United Solo 2018 Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street New York City
JAMES BARTHOLOMEW is a writer and musician living in New York City. He is an administrator of the Fordham University Theatre Program and an avid lover of the arts.