Posts Tagged EnActe Arts

Soundwaves: The Passion of Noor Inayat Khan – Play Review


Image result for noor inayat khanEnActe Arts recently produced Soundwaves: The Passion of Noor Inayat Khan.  

Stories of India inextricably linked with that of its neighbors, the collective that makes South Asia, have always been fascinating and generate universal interest. En Acte Arts company founded by Vinita Sud Belani focuses on bringing these fascinating tales on stage, with multi ethnic cast and crew. Their recent production, Soundwaves: The passion of Noor Inayat Khan told the story of Noor who was born from a union of Indian father and American mother, in January, 1914.  

Image result for noor inayat khan
 Noor imbibed lessons of sufi tradition and during her formative years she focused on music and writing children’s stories. However, the rise of fascism and Nazi invasion of France altered her focus and she became a British spy in occupied France. Given Noor’s interest in music, the play’s heavy theme is beautifully blended with music and dance. This inspirational story is written for stage by Joe Martin. The play is beautifully directed by Vinita Sud Belani and Music composer was Randy Armstrong. Akaina Ghosh is clearly very talented actress and did an awesome job in bringing Noor’s character to life.

EnActe Arts has grown in stature and influence in the bay area. This was a bold production of telling an inspirational story with many twists and turns.  The play featured a large cast and EnActe did a fabulous job.  I will be watching for future plays from this theater company.  For tickets, go to www.enacte.org .

 

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Tagore’s “Chitra: The Warrior Princess” – Play Review


Rabindranath Tagore’s “Chintrangadha” gets new life under expert direction of Ranjita Chakravarty, in enActe Arts riveting musical, “Chitra: The Warrior Princess”.  (What an amazing performance to enjoy India’s Nobel Laureate Tagore.  Here is my previous blog on celebration of Tagore’s creations in a Gujarati event http://bit.ly/1IsqzEE .) In Chitra, timeless tale of Manipur’s warrior princess, unfolds in a fabulous medley of superb dances (by Sanjib Bhattacharya, Annapurna Chandra, Debapriya Banerjee, Piya Mitra, Anuradha Mookerjee, Susmita Guhamajumder, Meghah Premasagar, Urmi Chakraborty, Ananya Basu, Depanwita Seal, Piyali Deb, Puspita Moitra, Sulagna Ray Saha, Susmita Guhamajumdar, Urmi Sen, Tracy Halder and Rohit Sankarraman), expertly choreographed by Dalia Sen Chatterjee and Sanjib Bhattacharya, and rapturous music (by Prasenjit Biswas, Sonali Bhattacharya, Abhra Roy, Anoop Bhattacharjya, Subhen Khatua, Sucheta Basu, Sukanya Chakrabarti, and Subhas Khansnabish).

Deergha Sahni is extremely talented and she carries the show as Chitra, the only child of the king and heir to the throne, brought up as a boy, a warrior, and protector of her people.  However, when Chitra’s eyes fall upon Arjun (Myrton Runningwolf) famous for his skills in archery, most tender feelings are awakened in the little girl, standing on the precipice of womanhood.  She loses interest in her former life and pines for her lover.  She summons help from Madan, the God of Love (Havish Ravipati).

“Take from my young body this primal injustice, an unattractive plainnness.  For a single day make me superbly beautiful, even as beautiful as was the sudden blooming of love in my heart. Give me but one brief day of perfect beauty, and I will answer for the days that follow”.  The God obliges and transforms her into a beautiful feminine woman, and not just for a day.  This wonderful blessing comes with a shelf life of one year.

When Chitra sees Arjun, he takes notice, “the very sight of you is indeed the highest hospitality”, and asks her “Alas, what can you desire, you who are the desire of the whole world”?
Chitra sings “Bodhu kon aalo laglo chokhe!” beautiful lyrics may translate as

Strange light flashed in my eyes, O my friend!
Radiant, perhaps dweller of the sun you are!
From ages my mind waited for you, day and night,
Immersed in the darkness of severe agony,
Reincarnating again and again only to have estranged heart.
Unopened buds of flower in the arbour,
Anguished soul devoid of music,
How do I elapse friendless, ever-miserable night sleeping alone.
O handsome,
Come with your welcoming garland,
Unveil that is concealed,
Look up the shyly smiling face under the pious light.

Borrowed beauty however, is temporary, and comes without a future.  There is discontent in the air, even as Chitra beacons Arjun to live the moment and hushes talk of the future. “Take me in your arms, my love.  Let all vain bickerings of discontent die away at the sweet meeting of our lips”.  And yet, as days go by, Chitra yearns to be a complete woman and desires Arjun as her equal.  Arjun too contemplates their future and seeks to know more.  “My love, have you no home where kind hearts are waiting for your return?; “Has she no tie with the world?  Can she be merely like a fragment of heaven dropped on the earth through the carelessness of a wanton God”?  Meanwhile, Arjun hears about Chitra, the warrior princess and he also becomes enamored by a woman warrior.  Chitra tries to distract him in vain, as Arjuna tells her what he has heard, “They say that in valour she is a man, and a woman in tenderness”.  

Chitra then asks Madan to free her of her boon and the illusion surrounding her is shattered.  She says to Arjun “look at your worshipper with gracious eyes.  I am not beautifully perfect as the flowers with which I worshipped.  I have many flaws and blemishes.  If you deign to keep me by your side in the path of danger and daring, if you allow me to share the great duties of your life, then you will know my true self.” Revealing her true self, she says, “Today I can only offer you Chitra, the daughter of a king”.  Chitra becomes an equal consort to the man she loves as Arjun says “Beloved, my life is full”.

Stage manager Gayatri Joshi, set and costume designer, Sonalee Hardikar, and Srikar Srinath on lights, did a fabulous job of creating magical, mystical environment and and talented Deergha Sahini, along with fabulous dancers transported the audience to the age where even a princess yearns to be complete, in love and in vocation.   This is Ranjita Chakravarty’s directional debut and she has delivered a memorable show in Chitra.  Great kudos to Artistic Director, Vinita Sud Belani for providing platform to bay area talent and breaking new ground with contemporary presentations of timeless classics like this one.  This is a not-to-miss performance.  Get your tickets at www.enacte.org (last show is on May, 10).

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Andhera Hone Tak – (Wait Until Dark) – Hindi Play Review


NAATAK company has exceeded all expectations in its production of “Andhera Hone Tak”, hindi version of Frederick Knott’s classic thriller, “Wait Until Dark”.  The play is performed with English subtitles projected above the stage, and that makes it a must-see play, for a wider range of  audience.

Stage versions of thrillers are rare because suspense and elements of a thriller, including murder, robbery etc. are hard to create on stage.  Producer Surender Singh has made a bold attempt in bringing this production and the suspense filled thriller does not disappoint on any count.  Clearly, Mukund Marathe has once again proved that he is simply one of the most brilliant directors.

Suneeta Saxena (Sareeka Malhotra) is a housewife, who is also blind, and is married to Sameer Saxena (Puneet) and they live in Shivaji Park, Mumbai.  Sameer becomes an innocent transporter of a doll stuffed with contraband, when he brought it home, at the request of a woman, who is now surfaced as dead.  Soon thereafter, Sameer is traveling again for business and Suneeta becomes target of three con-men, looking for heroin hidden in a doll.  The doll is nowhere to be found because unbeknownst to anyone, a little girl, Aneesha, living in the apartment upstairs, has stolen the doll. The trio play initially manage to get Suneeta worried that her husband will be suspected of murdering the woman and the only way to protect him would be to enable them to have the possession of the doll.

Wait Until Dark

Wait Until Dark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sareeka Malhotra’s performance as a blind heroine, is brilliant, both vulnerable and at the same time courageous and determined.  The three con men, played by Varun Dua, Sanjay Apte, and Amit Sharma are so good at being bad that their performance holds you at the edge of your seats.  Aneesha Nema, the little child star gives a phenomenal performance as a bratty but precocious kid.  The set design is superb, easy for a supposedly blind person to navigate and yet complex for her to figure out the movements of the intruders.  Juhi Mohan has done a great job with lights, helping create the perfect “dark”, that would give Suneeta an edge against the intruders.

Every theater season, I give my recommendation of a “must-watch play of the season” from among South Bay Theater companies, including (NAATAK – www,naatak.org, CityLights – http://www.cltc.org, San Jose Stage – http://www.thestage.org, Theatreworks – http://www.theatreworks.org, EnActe Arts – http://www.enacte.org etc.) and this season, unequivocally, I recommend NAATAK’s “Andhera Hone Tak”, as the “must-watch play of the season”.  While the play is performed in Hindi, the English sub-titles, projected above the stage, make it easy for all to enjoy.  So remember, you don’t need to understand Hindi to enjoy the suspense, heart stopping tension, spooky lighting, and climactic end, all delivered by flawless performance, in real time.

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“Merchant on Venice” by EnActe Arts – Play Review


EnActe Arts is as bold in its offerings as it is lofty in its vision of producing South Asian themed theatre, for universal audiences.  The company provides a platform for writers and playwrights from across the globe, and creates a forum for crucial South Asian themed stories to be heard, in the US.

Its current production, playwright Shishir Kurup’s “Merchant On Venice”, brings merchants of Hindu-Muslim diaspora, residing on LA’s Venice Boulevard, on stage, in an adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic.  A Hindu merchant named Devendra (Amasalan Doraisingam), requests the help of Muslim moneylender, Sharuk (Vijay Rajvaidya), to fund his friend Jitendra (Sonu Bains) in his matrimonial suit to Pushpa (Angelica Shah), a wealthy heiress of her late father’s fortune.  Underpinning their agreement, Sharuk and Devendra have a history of deep mutual distrust and dislike.  Sharuk insists that if Devendra fails to fulfill his contract and pay him back on time, then it would incur a severe penalty.  The penalty would be for Devendra to lose his manhood and for Sharuk to cut off his testicles.

Holi in india-5

Holi in india-5 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found the second half of the play more engaging, than the first half.  The first half of the play, seeks to depict with humor and ironic wit, exaggerated cultural stereotypes of racism and bigotry, and the history of racial intolerance among the communities.  Despite well intentioned effort, most of the humor did not seem hilariously funny, and at times, it seemed too simplistic, annoying, and simply perpetuating the entrenched stereotypes.  The play seeks to adapt Shakespeare’s classic, with a complex plethora of characters, and in the process, also becomes confusing at times.  Indeed, Shishir Kurup seems to be a talented playwright, and at times the beauty of the dialogs comes through.  However, in the absence of the microphones and as plenty of new characters are introduced, and as some of their voices become softer and with missing dialogs, I found my interest diminishing, and my mind wandering.  Perhaps more experienced actors may be able to deliver with greater punch and emphasis, and change this perception.  Ranjita Chakrabarti as Tooranpoi, Sharuk’s disengaged employee, was hilarious and generated some good laughs and Angelica Shah’s and Vijay Rajvaidya’s performances were excellent.

After the intermission, the play becomes serious, and focuses on tackling the crucial issue of Hindu Muslim divide. Honest communication around these issues is important and therefore I would highly recommend this play.  The events reach a point where Devendra’s “deal in the making” with GSK has fallen through and he is unable to fulfill his contract with Sharuk, and must now accede to losing his manhood.   This case is heard in the court of SABU (South Asian Business Union), by a bunch of patriarchs, who insist on conducting Hindu prayers, before the case is heard, and insist that Devendra’s counsel, Pushpa who is dressed in pants, supposedly as a man, change her attire and come appropriately dressed as a woman, in a saree or a salwar.  Some of the distractions from the original story are meaningful and show the state of affairs (for instance, in secular India, it is a norm for Hindu prayers to be conducted before many business or legal or government proceedings).

Other distractions however, were useless distractions (including the celebration of Holi or court’s insistence that Pushpa change her attire, which she did).  (It alluded to the patriarchal aspect of the culture, and it seemed like an important stereotype that should have either been dropped entirely or focused upon more strongly.  It annoyed me that while racial stereotypes were being questioned, such blatant and outrageous gender stereotypes were simply showed to exist and then accepted!!)  In any case, the story veers from Shakespeare’s version and some of these distractions could have been dropped.  In fact, the play could have shed minutes and characters, and focused on the most pertinent issue it was seeking to highlight.  

While I don’t fully agree with the way in which the Hindu-Muslim issue is highlighted (would be a whole blog by itself), it is about time that these issues of racial divides get our attention.  The play provides a great starting point for future discussions, and raises important thought-provoking questions about religion, philosophy, human expectations, and behavior.  I would highly encourage South Asians to see this important production, that EnActe Arts has so boldly brought to stage.  For tickets, go to http://www.enacte.org .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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