Posts Tagged Pulitzer Prize
Harish Sunderam Agastya has proved once again that he is an absolutely brilliant director, in “Rabbit Hole”, his 9th directorial venture with Naatak, based on a script by Pulitzer prize winning playwright, David Lindsay-Abaire. Superb props by Savitha Samu and her team create a sterile environment, in sharp contrast to the messy affairs that are to unfold. Every single performer has given their best, in telling of this story, centered around Indian American couple’s deep loss, heart soaking grief, and their gentle getting on with life.
Dipika Sharma and Avinash Sharma are dealing with death of four year old boy, Dev. Eight months after the loss, the best they are able to do is to talk at each other, rather than to each other, sidestep real issues, and argue over stuff that obfuscates real issues. In contrast, Dipika’s sister, Ishika Kumar deals with every issue, head-on. When she shares the news of her pregnancy from her boyfriend, with her sister, her sister feels that Ishika is too naive about the challenges of parenthood. Ishika insists,“this is exactly the kind of thing that gives a person clarity”. Dipika tries to give her dead son’s clothes to Ishika and Ishika tactfully denies them.
Ishika and Dipika’s mother Nandini Kumar breaks down while cleaning her grand son’s room, as she comes across his baby pictures. However, she also gets flak from her grieving daughter, when she compares little Dev’s loss to the loss of her own son Adit, 11 years earlier, from drug overdose.
Meanwhile Dipika and Avi’s grief has enclosed them in their own distinctive shell. Avi goes to a support group to help deal with the loss; he wants to feel his son’s presence in the home, through his pictures, his dog, his videos, and other stuff. Avi also wants to resume physical relations with his wife. Dipika wards off Avi’s advances saying she is not ready. Dipika also refuses to go to the support group. She copes by becoming overly practical in her approach to life, through constant flow of activities pertaining to daily routine, and by removing all reminders of her son, from her immediate environment. Her overwhelming grief finds an occasional outlet in outburst laced with anger and pain.
Jason Willette is the young man who was driving, when his car hit Dev. Apparently young Dev ran after his dog on the street, and it was deemed an accident, and Jason is legally not considered to be at fault. However, Jason is grief stricken and blames himself. Jason wants to talk with the Sharmas, but Avi is not keen to talk with Jason. Dipika however, decides to talk with Jason, and somehow in talking with him, her grief finds an outlet, as she breaks down sobbing. After their little talk, a mild miracle happens.
This play is not about an earth shattering story. This is an ordinary story of grief and loss that comes to life through absolutely superb performance. This story of heart rending grief and loss of life, resonates with members of the audience. The audience members were laughing with amazing Prathima Vadiraja, as Ishika Kumar, who was playful, fully self focused, and yet also totally tuned into other characters, and remarked on everything with candor that was both hilarious and endearing. Geeta Rai gave a good performance as a grand mother saddened by the grief of her daughter and unable to stop herself from giving advice to her daughter, to get on with life.
Harish Sunderam Agastya, as a grieving father, Avinash Sharma, was simply remarkable. His cluelessness on how to deal with his wife’s grief which is so very different from his own, was deeply moving. Grayson Richmond in the role of Jason Willette brought such intensity in his short performance that it touched a deep chord and ignited a collective wish to somehow erase what had happened. Every single performer gave their very best. And yet in the end, it was Kamala Subramaniam, as Dipika Sharma, who will leave a lasting impression. Members of the audience shared her grief so deeply, there were sniffles and attempts to find tissue to wipe the tears. Collective tears of sadness brought on by her remarkable performance, found some solace, when in a mild, gentle way she emerged from her shell, to contemplate what life will be like without Dev. Life must go on, and life, it seems, is after all lived one day at a time.
This is an absolutely not-to-miss performance of this theater season, in the bay area. Get your tickets for tonight’s last show, at http://www.naatak.com .
The 2013-2014 season has just begun and I am declaring “Other Desert Cities” currently playing at www.theatreworks.org as an absolutely “must watch” play of the season. Playwright Jon Robin Baitz was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and received a Tony nomination for Best Play. “On the edge of the sea”, in Palm Springs, California, in the land of “endless sunshine”, lives a patriarch of the family, a kind, affable man, Lyman, who is professionally the GOP chair, his wife Polly, the matriarch of the family who embodies Republican values in words and deeds, and is fiercely disciplined and demanding of perfection, from her family, and her sister Silda, who is a writer and a liberal. James Sutorius, in his first Theatreworks appearance as Lyman, and Julia Brothers as Silda, are absolutely fantastic, and Kandis Chappell, who has appeared in over 30 productions, in the Bay Area, carries her role as Polly, with marvelous perfection. They are joined during Christmas holidays, by their two children Trip and Brooke, superbly played by Rod Brogan and Kate Turnbull.
The family drama that unfolds when two extremely liberal grown children join their highly conservative parents and a liberal aunt with problems of her own, is a reflection of the broader cultural and political divide, in the country, where each side is often determined to impose its vision of America on the other, where each side fiercely believes that their vision for the country is ethically and morally superior, and any compromise would be akin to betraying these deep moral standards. And yet, in this family, under highly contentious and razor sharp retorts, there is deep love. The complexity of issues is so intense, depth of characters is so masterful, the dialogs are packed with so much punch, that this is a play that can be watched more than once.
Polly, the matriarch, demands a lot from her family, but also holds her family together, and is like a rock on whom everyone leans for support. When she says, “the only way to have someone not be an invalid is to not treat them like they are invalid”, it evokes a sharp retort from her liberal sister, Silda, “and there you have it, entire GOP platform, in a nutshell”. Her children, especially Brooke is constantly at odds with Polly. In response to her children’s sharp retorts, Polly says in exasperation, “Why is it that children are allowed endless series of free passes in life”. This play contains so much and offers so many thought provoking issues. There is family drama, political divide, mystery, intrigue, cultural and ideological war, razor sharp wit, humor, tragedy, love that tugs at the heart and love that holds the family together, in its divided state. I laughed and I cried and thought and rethought and I am ready to see the play again.
Theatreworks and Artistic Director Robert Kelley deserve the kudos for bringing the most awesome plays to the Bay Area. Director, Richard Seer has done a superb job. Stage Manager, Radall K. Lum, Assistant Stage Manager, Emily Anderson Wolf, and Scenic Designer Alexander Dodge have done a masterful job in the set. The stage reflects a multi-million dollar Californian home and the many symbolic elements on the stage include a beautiful free standing fireplace that gives the chills, when the air in the room gets too heavy, and the characters get lonely in their own home.
If you love theater, you must watch this play. If you are not sure about the power of live theater in touching you deeply, then watch this play. If you are a liberal, you will love the wit and the humor. If you a conservative, you will enjoy the characters of Lyman and Pollie who despite the potshots directed at them, create a loving and supporting home. If you enjoy unraveling the mystery, dialogs that make you laugh, dialogs that make you cry, then watch the play. For tickets, go to www.theatreworks.org.