Posts Tagged Play Reviews
2014 in review – Blog summary — Gift from WordPress!
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Year-End Reviews on December 30, 2014
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Party – Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports, Play Reviews on February 23, 2014
Naatak company is formed by a group of theater enthusiasts of Indian origin, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since it’s founding in 1995, Naatak company has made huge strides in prominence and stature by bringing quality live theater, with Indian and Indian-American themes, on stage, in the bay area. Naatak has now introduced season passes to enable regular theatergoers the convenience and price deal, for its outstanding performances.
The current play “Party” is based on original Marathi play, written by Mahesh Elkunchwar, in 1976. Directed by Ravi Bhatnagar and Alka Sippy, the play is meant as a satire, aimed at India’s urban elite. Based on some comments from my friends who have seen the original play in Marathi and/or the Hindi movie that came out in 1984, it was a highly intelligent satire of the pseudo-elite, the patrons of the arts and literature who nevertheless lived hypocritical lifestyles and held conflicting values.
The acting by a big cast of almost a dozen people in this play is fantastic, as has been typical in all Naatak plays. The scene is the party hosted by Damyanti Rane, in honor of a well known playwright, Diwakar Barwe, who is at the pinnacle of his success. Basab Pradhan, as doctor who is attending the party because he is Rane’s friend, has done a beautiful job of delivering his satirical lines, with a straight face. Referring to Rane’s guests, he tells Rane at the beginning of her party, “why must you go on collecting these nut cases?” Sindu Singh and Vijay Rajvaidya are fabulous as Rane and Barve, respectively. Only as the party progresses, the skeletons and the hidden agendas, the fears, and the disillusions harbored by these party-goers become apparent. Barwe confesses to Rane that his work has not had much originality and he has held his top spot only because he defends his turf and discourages other budding writers. His gorgeous live-in girlfriend, Mohini, a former actress (nicely played by Priya Satia), is in fact, addicted to alcohol and lives in the imaginary world of being deeply in love with Barwe, though he does not love her any more.
Snigdha Jain has done a great job with superb set design. Manish Sabu and Anubha Prakash’s work with English sub titles is excellent. If you are not well versed in Hindi, you won’t miss the fun because English sub titles appear in a timely way, right above the stage. Asheesh Divetia is perfect in his role as Bharat, a budding writer, who is plagued by insecurities, interspersed with moments of great insights and clarity. Nandita Kant, in the role of Vrinda (Rane’s plain looking daughter and an unwed mother) seems to be the only genuine person at the party. She spurns unwanted advances from her mother’s friend and suitor, Agashe, played by Puneet, before she confronts her mother about her superficial world that feels so alien to her.
The problem however, is that none of these interactions seem like extraordinary events that make a great story. They also don’t feel like immensely ordinary events that the audience would deeply identify with and would move the audience. They sort of just hang in there. The satire in this play seems to fall flat, the dialogs are not supremely witty, jokes are not rip-roaringly hilarious, and none of the characters display huge depth or intensity. I went to see the play with my friend and her smart, literature enthusiastic daughter, Sonia Mahajan, who is a freshman at a local high school. After the play, I asked her what she thought of the play. “Nothing happened”, she said. I think that about sums up how this play came through.
The only things that happen of any consequence, were with a character who is absent from the stage, and whom we hear about from Joginder (Ishmeet Singh), a local reporter. Amrit, a promising writer-poet, is concerned with the plight of the tribal people and in stark contrast to these elitist party-goers, he indicates his commitment to the society through his actions, residing and fighting on behalf of the tribal people, seeking justice for them. Despite fabulous acting by a brilliant cast, the play is not riveting. Perhaps some brilliance was lost in translation. More specifically however, these pseudo-intellectuals or elites in 1970s India, just seem like ordinary people, with ordinary concerns, and ordinary hypocrisies, in the 21st century, America. At best, “Party” feels like an annoying party one is attending out of obligation and can’t wait to go home.
I want to give credit to the NAATAK company for bringing a wide variety of topics, on stage. Not every topic or theme can be perfect and resonate with every member of the audience. The diversity and variation of subject matter serves to enhance the perspectives of Bay Area theater-goers, particularly those interested in themes related to the Indian sub-continent. I have seen the play “Disconnect” when it was performed at San Jose Rep, that will be presented by NAATAK in June. Here is a link to my review –http://bit.ly/14uuKgm and I would absolutely highly recommend it. With NAATAK casting and direction, it is likely to be absolutely brilliant. There will be one or two more shows of “Party” and tickets and/or season passes can be purchased at www.naatak.com.
The Threepenny Opera – Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on February 14, 2014
Virgil Thomson has called Bertolt Brecht’s “The Threepenny Opera” “one of century’s most powerful creations” and Bob Dylan said about the music “I was aroused straightaway by the raw intensity of the songs”. Powerful lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, were originally set to music by composer, Kurt Weill and it was Elisabeth Hauptmann who maintained the raw intensity of the lyrics when originally translating them into English. The translation of the dialogs and lyrics for this production was done by Robert MacDonald and Jeremy Sams. It is absolutely incredible that the musical that was originally produced in Germany, in 1928, as a scathing social and political critique about the clash of the haves and the have-nots, echoes true today.
On the sidewalk, one Sunday mornin’
Lies a body oozin’ life
Someone’s sneaking ’round the corner
Could that someone, perhaps, perchance, be Mack the Knife?
Tattoo covered Jonny Moreno, as Macheath, with the words HUSTLER tattooed on his chest, is the fierce king of the 1930s Berlin’s underbelly, where the women admire him and cops make deals with him. Moreno’s acting is fantastic and his voice commands respect. The bagger king Peachum also runs his little kingdom where he trains the baggers on concocting tales of woes, to generate maximum sympathy from the donors. No one can bag on his turf without prior permission from Mr. and Mrs. Peachum, who get a commission from all bagger earnings. Paul Myrvold and Susan Gundunas last seen together at The Stage, in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, are fabulous as colorful Peachums. With all the respective turfs well defined, there is a functional system that keeps things organized, up to a point. But in the end, Macheath’s undoing happens because of the women. With two wives and his visits to the whore house, his women love him and hate him, in equal measure. Monique Hafen is fabulous in the role of innocent Polly Peachum (the bagger king’s daughter). She marries Macheath, unaware of his prior marriage and other passing interests. Halsey Varady as astute heroin shooting druggie, Jenny Diver, is superb.
Director Kenneth Kelleher, Musical Director Richard Marriott and Vocal Director, Allison F. Rich have done a marvelous job in capturing the underbelly of 1930s city streets of Europe, where alliances shift rapidly and the downtrodden have their own code for survival, where you gotta watch your own back.
This absolutely spell binding performance is undoubtedly “not to miss” play of this quarter. Kudos to Artistic Director, Randall King and Executive Director, Cathleen King for bringing such evocative, edgy, intense productions to San Jose Stage. For tickets, go to http://www.thestage.org.
The Smell of Kill – Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on February 1, 2014
In “The Smell of Kill”, Michele Lowe has given life to (pun intended) the “meaty” topic of unhappy marriages, where one spouse wishes the other to be dead or sometimes fantasizes killing the spouse. Director Virginia Drake has done a phenomenal job in alternating between comic relief and nervous tension, as three unhappy wives deny, discuss, and eventually unite in denigrating their husbands.
Nicki’s husband Jay has committed some legal hanky-panky and is likely to be indicted and to serve time. Nicki is bitter and edgy from the very beginning and tells the other wives, “Jay is not going to prison, because I am going to kill him first”. Debra’s husband is having an affair with another woman, though that does not stop him from flirting with his friends’ wives. Debra is in complete denial of her situation, at first. She constantly moralizes about appropriate role for good wife and a mother and looks down upon working women like Nicki. Debra says, “a good mother stays home for the first two years of a child’s life”. Molly is not quite so naïve, as she first comes across. She wants a child but is unlikely to get pregnant by her “asexual” husband. Molly has her own fun from having affairs with other men. Debra tells Molly, she should get a hobby and Molly says, “I got a hobby”.
It is the performance of the three women, Mandy Armes, Diahanna Davidson, and Morgan Allyne Voellger working together with impeccable timing that makes the play interesting. Husbands (played by Jimmy Allan, Frank Swaringen, and Max Tachis) are off stage during the entire play, and only participate through their meaningless comments and selfish commands, alternately demanding dessert, calling out little love messages or pelting golf balls in the kitchen. Needless to say it’s not just the wives who get annoyed and angry. Very quickly the audience joins the wives’ camp. The wives have had enough of these insensitive, selfish, flirtatious men who take little to no responsibility in the relationship. And then a situation arises where the wives are called upon to vote and decide, as Nicki puts it, whether or not they should play God and rescue their husbands from a fatal situation they willingly walked into. Will they? Won’t they?
Ron Gasparinetti has done a marvelous job in scenic design and Tyler Della and Ivette Deltoro has worked beautifully on the props. Immaculately clean kitchen, with skylights (windows towards God), and use of sharp, huge kitchen knife to tack the newspaper clipping of Jay’s antics on the kitchen’s broom closet, seems like a perfect setting. Amy Zsadanyi-Yale has done a fabulous work with the costumes, including the blah borrowed top, sexy lingerie, and blood soaked plaid shirt, that speak to the raucous, the risqué, and the gory aspect of the storyline.
Comedy plays are infrequent and often difficult to enact. So this is a rare chance to see a tragic/ comedy superbly executed with precision timing. The Smell of Kill is running at City Lights Theater in San Jose till February 23, 2014. For tickets, go to http://www.cltc.org.
Silent Sky – Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on January 23, 2014
Silent Sky is a story about women and science. Science was once a men’s domain. This is a story of how one committed scientist unraveled mysteries of the universe and made a contribution so big that that only posterity could fully appreciate it; all because her curiosity could not be contained. The playwright Lauren Gunderson has done a marvelous job in bringing the story of Henrietta Leavitt whose curiosity and commitment almost matched that of Galileo. (BTW – here is a link to my review of the book “Galileo’s Daughter” by Dava Sobel – http://bit.ly/zB9bab).
Elena Wright in her role as Henrietta, displays the tremendous inner resolve and strength that a woman scientist needed to succeed the 1800s. Leavitt solicited her sister’s help in her mission to work at the Harvard College of Observatory, after graduating from Radcliff College, in 1893. Jennifer Le Blanc is superb in her role as Margaret Leavitt, Henrietta’s sister. At Harvard, Henrietta yearned to see the great refractor telescope but she was not allowed. Instead, Henrietta worked as a “computer”, examining photographic plates (collected from observations through the telescope by other scientists) and she computed, measured, recorded and cataloged the brightness of the “variable” stars. She worked with two older scientists. Sarah Dacey Charles and Lynne Soffer are fantastic in the roles of Annie Cannon and Willamina Fleming who were participating in the women’s suffrage movement, while working at Harvard.
These are strong women. Matt Citron plays the role of Peter Shaw, a fellow scientist at Harvard. Among four strong female characters, Shaw holds his own. There is a beautiful ying and yang balance. While the women are strong and try to hide their softer core, the only man in the play is gentle, shy in expressing his feelings of affection to Henrietta and as conflicted about proper way to deal with cultural expectations and with the separation of the domains of men and women, as the women are.
As a computer, Leavitt was widely successful, cataloging greater and greater number of stars and their luminosity, even as she began to question her work. “What is the point of all this work, if it cannot tell us where we are in the universe”, she asks. But one day, while listening to her sister play the piano and its rhythm, it occurs to Leavitt that brightness of the stars can be closely linked with the distance. That was the beautiful moment of synergy between math and music. Indeed, if this was to be true, the universe would be much bigger than had been assumed to be. Further, there would be other galaxies and universes. This was a novel idea at the time. Leavitt noticed that variable stars showed a predictable pattern where brighter ones had longer periods of luminosity. This period/ luminosity relationship later allowed the scientists to compute distances to faraway galaxies and later from this work Harlow Shapley was able to move our Sun out from the center of the galaxy and Edwin Hubble to move our galaxy out from the center of the universe.
Almost 300 years after Galileo, Leavitt displayed similar courage to follow her passion and quench her curiosity for knowledge, and Like Galileo, Leavitt changed the picture of our universe forever. This is a play that honors this great scientist and the sacrifices that society demanded of women who sought to play in the men’s world. The stage as the observatory at Harvard is fantastic and when Henrietta looks at the shimmering stars, it almost transports the audience to what she might be thinking and feeling. Great kudos to Jamie D. Mann, Stage Manager and Stephanie Schliemann, Assistant Stage Manager, and Scenic Designer, Annie Smart. Also great kudos to Director, Meredith McDonough and many thanks to Artistic Director, Robert Kelly for continuing to expand our horizons with fabulous shows. The Silent Sky will be running at www.theatreworks.org till February, 9 and I would not miss it for the world.
Will Durst’s Big Fat Year-End Kiss Off Comedy Show
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Musings, Play Reviews on January 1, 2014
Bay Area’s Premiere Off-Broadway “San Jose Stage Theater” hosted 2013 year-end and 2014 New Year celebration with Will Durst’s Big Fat Year-end Kiss Off Comedy Show on December 31st, 2013. Will Durst and his friends Mari Magaloni, Johnny Steele, Michael Bossier, Debi Durst and Arthur Gaus offered a night of comedy and satire with a collection of political jokes, stand-up comedy, quizzes, and hilarious skits. The night ended with a balloon drop and champagne celebration at the stroke of mid-night to welcome the new year.
The show was delightful. Will Durst began with Snowden’s taking refuge in Russia, “it’s like you joining the army because you are tired of people telling you what to do”. Debi Durst was hilarious in the little skit with Michael Bossier, as a toilet room attendant. The entire cast performed a short family X’mas celebration skit, replete with all family members hooked to their mobile devices and Arthur Gaus tweeting that he was enjoying a great family time. Arthur is new kid who joined the Durst comedy show circuit and his one act stand up comedy was witty and hilarious.
The audience was in fits of laughter over Will and Debi’s Government shutdown skit. Debi as Yosemite attendant insisted that Will, a tourist had to leave and cannot see the Yosemite, due to the shutdown. Will insisted that Yosemite was there and he was only going to look and Debi insisted that he cannot look because then he has to be charged and he cannot be charged because she cannot process payment due to shutdown and she would have to arrest him, if he looked. Johnny Steele performed a skit on complicated healthcare laws. Michael Bossier and Mari Magaloni’s skit on the new affordable healthcare was absolutely the best. With a straight face, Mari played the role of automated voicemail system that kept throwing Mike into loops of endless messages. By the time he got to the operator (again played by Mari), the audience was in fits of laughter.
The show ended with one act stand up comedy by political satirist Will Durst, with brilliant quips of humor. “People keep referring to Mr. Putin as ex-KGB, but there is no such thing as ex-KGB. You know, what is an ex-KGB? It’s someone who is DEAD”. And “why blame Mr. Obama for things? He did not do anything”. Silicon Valley was also target of jokes. “If you go to Radio Shack in Silicon Valley, reps ask customers for help”. And on affordable healthcare – “if you do not sign up, you get fined, and if you don’t pay the fine, you go to prison where you get free healthcare”. New year is a reminder of years gone by and when Will talked of how things were, the days when “we had no caller ID and if the phone rang, we picked it up”, and “moving the antenna on the TV to get perfect reception, took up an entire hour”, the audience was in throes of laughter and ready to welcome the new year.
Little Women – Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on December 10, 2013
Director Robert Kelley has done it again; a superb job of bringing the classic “Little Women” by Allan Knee, based on the original novel by Louisa May Alcott, on stage at www.theatreworks.org . This classic tale of four sisters is brought on stage in the form of a musical, with lovely lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and music by Jason Howland, under musical director, William Liberatore. It is playing in Palo Alto, at Lucie Stern Theater, until January 4, 2014. The play is set in 1868, during the time of the civil war, in New England. Costume Design befitting the period is beautiful and the credit goes to Fumiko Bielefeldt and creative scenic design is by Joe Ragey.
Alcott wrote the novel “Little Women”, based on familiar references from her own life. In the play, the father of four girls (the March sisters), is away, fighting in the war, leaving their mother, Marmee, (beautifully played by Elizabeth Ward Land) to run the household full of four young women. Emily Koch is absolutely stupendous as Jo the second sister, an aspiring writer, who is feisty, a non conformist, loves books, and spurns traditions. Jo has a hard time getting her book published and is told to come up with a “better” plot. The play opens with a musical about her book and she asks “better than what, better than this dazzling plot?” In an era when women were to do as they were bid, Jo reaches high, and she is confident, she will attain what she is reaching for.
While Jo finds solace in her writing, her younger sister Amy (superbly played by Arielle Fishman) is both jealous of Jo and desirous of what may be within Jo’s reach. Amy is vivacious and full of life. When Jo and eldest sister Meg are invited to their first Ball, Amy is so jealous that she burns to ashes, Jo’s half written novel. Jo sings “I will never fall asleep again” and it falls on Marmee to make peace between the two sisters. Sharon Rietkerk plays the oldest sister, Meg, who is the family beauty, is simple, sweet and easily falls in love with John Brooke (played by Justin Buchs), and Julia Belanoff does a fabulous job as Beth, the youngest sister who is sweet, sensible, satisfied with her herself and sadly succumbs to an illness.
Little Women is a story of the four sisters, growing up, finding love, rejecting love, supporting one another through life’s trials and tribulations, getting beaten down by life’s struggles, overcoming them, attaining their dreams, and holding the family together by a tie that binds. Matt Dengler (as Laurie, grandson of the March family’s neighbor), Richard Farrell (as the old and crusty neighbor with a soft heart), Justin Buchs (as Laurie’s tutor), and Christopher Vettel (as Jo’s professor) have played their roles nicely and they add the right touch of yang to the yin of the March women. I love the cast in this play and Elizabeth Palmer as stern Aunt March is also wonderful.
But it is fantastic Emily Koch as Jo, whose performance makes this a show to remember. There are many warm, funny, sweet moments in the play that the sisters enjoy. And yet, in the end, it is the heartbreak that ignites Jo to write a novel that brings her recognition and fame, and it is her writing that helps her overcome the heartbreak, and adapt to the changing family.
This is a beautiful not-to-miss play of the season, to start off the holidays filled with family celebrations. The opening night performance was completely sold out and the audience gave a standing ovation. Book your tickets early at http://www.theatreworks.org .
God of Carnage – Play Review (Bay Area, CA – NAATAK Co. Production)
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports, Play Reviews on October 30, 2013
God of Carnage, a play written by Yasmina Reza (in French) and translated by Christopher Hampton, has been beautifully adapted to competitive Indian parents, meeting to resolve a playground altercation between their two young kids, in this production, by Bay Area’s prominent NAATAK company. It is produced by Soumya Agastya. In his debut in NAATAK, as a director, Mukund Marathe has done a splendid job, that couldn’t be far from perfect.
In this 90 minute play, two couples, Anita and Anil Srivastav visit Renuka and Mukul Desai, at the Desai home, to discuss the playground fight between their two children, in which Anita and Anil’s son’ knocked out two teeth of Renuka and Mukul’s son. At first, the couples observe the civilities, mind their manners, and amicably discuss how to deal with the situation. Acknowledging his son’s behavior to be aggressive, Anil says “our son is a maniac” and in a spirit of cooperation and to not assign blame, Renuka accedes “we try to fill the gap in the education system, take the kids on field trips and museums but there is violence in the system”.
However, soon the hidden ugliness appears. As the meeting progresses from coffee to rum, as the masks come off, the gloves too come off, not just between one couple and another but at times between men against the women. And yet these people are not criminals or psychopaths. In these people, we can see us. Some character we identify more with, and some less. In some we see our neurotic friends, and in some our foes. The complex mix of characters and their ordinary zanyness is what gives this play, depth and poignancy. Satirical dialogs make you laugh uncontrollably.
The four actors have done a marvelous job of playing their semi-neurotic roles. Divya Satia plays the role of Renuka, a writer who works part-time in a museum. She is an activist whose life is defined by causes. First, her forthright, authentic approach sucks the audience in and then her “holier than thou” tone is both hilarious and annoying. Her husband, played by Puneet, is a wholesale business trader and at first he is infinitely accommodating, but he soon emerges as cavalier (who tires of his daughter’s hamster and just releases it in the wild), easily looses his temper, is racist, and says “child rearing is wasteful”. Pooja Srivastava plays the role of Anita, a “wealth manager” attired in trendy suit, stilettos, branded purse and appears very cultured. However, soon she can’t handle the tension, begins to get ill, throws up all over on the hosts’ coffee table, and laughs like a child, when she manages to grab her husband’s cell phone and throw it in a vase filled with water. Harish Agastya is playing the role of Anil, a fascinating character of a smart but slimy corporate lawyer who is preoccupied with his pharmaceutical client dealing with problems of side effects of blood pressure medicine and is constantly getting calls from the client. He comes to the meeting with the attitude of observing niceties, get it over with, and move on to tackle the problems of his client.
As the gloves come off, Anita calls Mukund a killer (for releasing the hamster in the wild and allowing it to fall prey to other creatures). After defending himself, wiping off the soiled coffee table, cleaning the soiled books, Mukund pours himself a drink and says “I am starting to feel serene”. His wife Renuka is bewildered that only she is concerned about what trespassed between the children and says, “I am the only one not feeling serene. In fact I’ve never been so unhappy”. Meanwhile, Atul who felt from the beginning that it was much hoopla about nothing, explains that Desai’s son refused to allow his son to be in his gang and therefore, he says, “my son did good to beat the shit out of yours”. It is apparent that as parents, all four have their blind spots and they are hardly looking for someone else to tell them how to do their job of parenting.
These are four actors on top of their sport and they have done a fabulous job with good acting, of behaving badly. Yasmina Reza once said, “Theater is a sharp reflection of society” and in this play, the mirror is held close. While providing the philosophical depth, the play provides great entertainment with razor sharp humor. Opening night performance was sold out and two remaining shows this weekend are expected to be sold out. Go to www.naatak.com for more information.
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity – Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on October 25, 2013
A play about wrestling? I almost did not go to see this one. I would have missed one heck of a play. Makes one think about what wrestling represents in the minds of many of us. The playwright Kristoffer Diaz has created an interesting juxtaposition of vastly different communities in this excellent play, masterfully directed by Jonathan Williams. Stage Manager, Meredith King and Set Designer, Ian Wallace have done an amazing job in recreating the environment suitable for wrestling matches, one of the oldest forms of combative sports.
“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”, a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist, is not just a play about sports. It is a play about what it means to have an American dream and how certain sports and wrestling for sure, embody the American dream. In fact, after Virgil Riley Runnels, Jr., a son of a plumber, won multiple grand wrestling championships and various titles, he was renamed, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. In this play, Macedonio Guerra, known as Mace, a wrestler of Puerto Rican decent, describes his childhood fascination with the art and the business of wrestling. He talks about what the sport meant for him and his brothers and how it molded his own aspirations.
When he entered the game of professional wrestling however, he hit the glass ceiling, sooner than he had anticipated. He was rather short and not highly charismatic and was therefore deemed a non-championship material. Instead, he became a professional “looser”. He plays his character and is also the narrator, in the play. Through him, we get a glimpse into the world of professional wrestling, buzzing with racism, jingoism, and xenophobia, not to mention, certain level of ignorance. And sometimes there are people who mask their smartness, to fit in. Mace almost calls on the ignorant and racist remarks of his boss, but then thinks better of it, and says, “I let my boss be right”. He says, as a professional looser, his job is to “make the winner look good”; to make the winner look as though he defeated the opponent with considerable force and strength. The pre-determined champion, in a sport where fights are frequently “fixed”, and body slams, mounted punches, backhand swings, and other moves are often rehearsed and faked, is Chad Deity, a charismatic, engaging, tall black man with an easy smile and a powerful voice.
Mace however, sees his big break that could help him inch closer to realizing the American dream, when he finds a charismatic champion hidden under the carefree Indian kid, Vigneshware Paduar. Mace presents VP to his boss EKO and tells him “I will do the heavy lifting” in prepping VP. VP fights the bad guy, Billy Heartland and then EKO fascinated by VP’s foreign decent and non traditional stance, starts planning the best way VP can be presented to the fans. He wants to present him as Muslim terrorist, even though VP is Hindu, building on the notion that sometimes, racial identity may be exploited, in pursuit of the American dream. EKO presents VP as an evil Muslim, called the Fundamentalist, who with his sleeper cell kick, seemingly poses a threat to the American Dream guy Chad Deity. All the four wrestlers, Mace (played by Andrew Perez), Chad Deity (played by Donald Paul), Vigneshware Paduar or VP (played by Jaspal Binning), and bad guy Billy Heartland (played by James Long), and the owner of the wrestling team, EKO (Randall King) do an amazingly superb job. It is worth it to see the play just to see their fabulous wrestling moves and characteristic wrestling boasts.
This beautiful, satirical, amazingly witty play also blends in tenderness and poetic storytelling. Towards the end, VP and Mace begin to realize that they are becoming parts of the exploitative machine, by accepting the soundbites, the racially charged epithets, and by readily abandoning the truth. The satire is not just on the professional sport of wrestling. The joke is also on theater goers, who may have come to see this sport, with its loud music, bright lights, unusual attires, and rough language, as “lowbrow”. The fact that underneath the façade and faked exterior are real people, striving for the same things that make the American dream, some respect, recognition, and feeling of “having arrived”, is an eye-opener.
“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” is a not-to-miss play of this season, and it is playing at The Stage in San Jose, until November, 10. For tickets, please go to http://www.thestage.org.
Warrior Class – Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Movie Reviews on October 13, 2013
Political aspirations may originate in idealism, but at its core, politics is a bloody sport. At the heart of the crafty tale of political maneuverings and machinations in nationally known playwright Kenneth Lin’s “Warrior Class”, is Julius Lee, son of Chinese immigrants, running for Congress, as the Republican Obama. He is a practicing Christian, a decorated marine with Harvard Law Review credentials, and his inspiring speech has created a huge sensation and gotten the party excited. Young, charismatic, and highly marketable as Lee is, “Nobody’s as clean as they want to be”, says his campaign consultant, Nathan Berkshire. Very soon they discover a small “skeleton in the closet”, in the form of Lee’s ex girl friend, Holly Eames, who claims that Lee stalked her and her family when they ended the relationship. Berkshire is ready for the challenge. He says, “you can’t play the game, if you don’t play the game.
Pun Bandhu’s performance as Julius Lee is superb and flawless. Robert Sicular in the role of Nathan Berkshire and Delia MacDougall as Holly Eames also give fantastic performance that lend authenticity and make the story of bizarre political motivations, believable. Director Leslie Martinson has done a fantastic job and stage design by Erik Flatmo is superb. Secret meetings take place at a restaurant in Baltimore, over soda and burgers, with Eames. Berkshire and Lee meet at Lee’s trendy New York apartment to discuss the political alliances Lee should enter into and whether that decision should be based on his idealism or the opportunity it will afford the young candidate and to discuss the Eames issue. Is Eames telling the truth or is she simply an opportunistic ex-girl friend, suffering from anxiety and dealing with a troubled marriage with a spouse having an affair? Is Berkshire able to persuade Eames to remain reticent about her previous experiences or scare her by ferreting out her own secrets? Or is her silence bought with a cost and how would that entangle the new candidate in a web of crafty maneuverings?
“Warrior Class” offers an opportunity for soul searching at a national level. Jesus said, “only step forward and cast the first stone, if you have not sinned”. But in politics, in the search for an ideal candidate, casting stones for all major and minor infractions of the candidate, is a game, freely engaged by all. Does everyone have skeletons in the closet? How far should they go to keep them there? Does any candidate have a chance if they don’t play the game? Indeed, a primary question posed in the play is, how does politics change a person, as it becomes apparent that as one plays the game and becomes bloody, one learns to play it better, more offensively, and with greater paranoia.
The play is running at www.theatreworks.org till November 3, 2013.