Clever, funny, and intelligent, “Chaos Theory” is a story of love and literature, yes also love of literature, which brings two people together, over and over again. Unsure of their love for each other but more certain of their supremacy in literature, Mukesh (Puneet) and Sunita’s (Vinita Sud Belani) lives intersect constantly. Written by Anuvab Pal, an Indian stand-up comedian, the story begins in India, and ends several decades later in New York.
My feeling is that I might have loved this play, with better acoustics and delivery. Unfortunately, I missed large parts of the dialogues because the Cubberly Theater acoustics left much to be desired! The actors who spoke loudly and enuciated clearly were, for the most part, easy to understand. Unfortunately, several actors spoke too fast, and did not enunciate clearly enough to overcome the poor acoustics. Unable to fully grasp the dialogues and beautiful quotations from literature, and yet hearing mention of Byron, Shakespeare etc., only built up my frustration and severely impacted my enjoyment of the play. I asked the audience members around my seat (which was towards the corner), and they agreed they were having trouble understanding what was being said. My friend who accompanied me was so frustrated at missing significant chunks of the dialogues, and hearing the some laughter at lines we could not at all make out, that she told me if she had not had to stay on account of me, she would have left during intermission, which neither of us ever does. Despite missing large parts of the dialogues, I am sharing some information below.
Against the backdrop of significant events and dates artfully portrayed in the background, the story takes audience on an emotional journey of Mukesh and Sunita’s relationship. Mukesh is cynical, cocky, well read, denies his feelings, and lives in the world of ideas and thoughts. Sunita is witty, funny, well read, also denies her feelings, but lives on the edge straddling thoughts and feelings. While they both deny their strong attraction towards each other or their ego stops them from declaring their feelings towards each other, their paths cross frequently, even as they forge other attachments.
While they do not approach their inner world of feelings with candor, and do not acknowledge their mutual attraction, Mukesh and Sunita find solace and comfort, by engaging in witty repartee and quoting pieces from literature. At one point, they quote Byron, “In secret we met — in silence I grieve, That thy heart could forget, Thy spirit deceive. If I should meet thee After long years, How should I greet thee? — With silence and tears” (I googled to get the entire quote, since I heard only parts of this quote).
Mukesh and Sunita end up as professors, with Sunita more concerned with what is taught, rather than how, and Mukesh more focused upon the process of teaching and learning. I caught interesting bits and pieces of their dialogues. Later, Sunita expresses her frustration of “living between two cultures” even as they both refuse to acknowledge that real frustration is caused from living in the in-between zone of an easy lie that they are “just” friends, and the uncomfortable truth that they deeply care for and even love each other.
Director and lead actress, Vinita Sud Belani is also the founding Artistic Director of EnActe Arts, and is devoted to bringing quality South Asian theatre to mainstream audiences. Additionally, En Acte Arts supports and champions worthy causes of importance to the community. A portion of the proceeds from all shows of “Chaos Theory” are donated to Maitri, Bay Area’s non-profit organization that serves the survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, primarily in the South Asian community.
Media Designer, David Murakami did a fine job with video projected information in the background, which helped to orient the audience members, as the story jumps around. The set design by Reshma Dave and props by Vishalini Vimal and Geeta Rai were excellent. When we could hear clearly, we were impressed with much of the acting. En Acte Arts is a theater with a heart, and I hope audiences will continue to support the theater and the various causes it champions.