To Be or AirBnB?

An Off Broadway play currently being performed in Athens provides a comic look at the pitfalls of Airbnb.


By Willian Gallagher 

Airbnb is a popular way for cash-strapped Greeks to supplement their income. Many Athenians have rented their homes to tourists and other visitors for short stays through the website. In fact, it has become so lucrative to do so that it has become much harder to find apartments in the center of the capital for traditional long-term leasing.

In comes an English-language (with Greek surtitles) play about the hot-button issue from Off-Broadway. “Rent Control” is currently on stage at the edgy Theater 104 in the Airbnb-filled, hipster-populated neighborhood of Gazi.

Evan Zes’s play is bold. It is after all a one-man show in which the actor-director plays some 30 different characters, ranging from himself to a Romanian grandmother to an Albanian barber. It is quite something to see a self-described character actor in his mid-40s switch at lightning speed from a frail old woman to pretty much anything else – and all while wearing the same old Adidas tracksuit.

In the play a struggling actor sublets his apartment in New York City through Airbnb, which eventually becomes a lucrative income scheme. Of course, whatever comes up must come down – and does so with spectacular repercussions. This is a true story, by the way.

There is an authentic feel to the play. However, one gets the sense that that authenticity would be better suited to a medium where one man did not play so many characters.

Much appreciated was a sit-down Q&A session with the actor. In reality, it was more of a discussion. It included anything and everything, ranging from the Airbnb issue in Greece, to actor headshots. Zes showed a real desire to take on board what the audience had to say, leading to the  notion that the play likely varies from one day to the next.

“Rent Control” is part of EllinikoTheatro’s ATHENS2018 summer festival, in which productions from abroad, as well as documentaries and masterclasses in the performing arts are taking place in the capital through July 3.

The play made its debut at the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival and has since has been performed by Zes in a variety of American cities and Costa Rica – but never anywhere this side of the Atlantic.

This article was first published by ekathimerini.com


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