Posts Tagged Review
A team of young soccer players in Sarah DeLappe’s play “The Wolves” start out with routine banter, typical of young girls, as they do pre-match warm-up sessions. A Pulitzer Prize finalist, the play offers a rich insight into the minds and hearts of young girls. It is inspiring and emotional, funny and sad and juxtaposes the trials and tribulations of growing up as a young girl in a manner that creates a rich tapestry of varying colors of adolescent life.
The play is not organized around a singular conventional theme. In fact, the points of tension are dispersed among many situations and issues and randomly emerge in the fast and fragmented girl talk. There is anxiety around being in love, getting recruited to a top college with athletic scholarship, being home schooled and moved around with a parent’s job, going for unsupervised parties with boys and more. Added to all the choices that young girls wade through, there’s the shame, guilt and secrecy around sex and sexuality.
What emerges is a rich tapestry of adolescent angst, amidst glaring fundamental truths, the many choices that will have long term consequences and many responsibilities that they delicately seek to balance and navigate through, relying on each other, where only they can understand the depth of emotions. Should destiny require them to deal with loss and grief, what adult can fully understand or speak honestly about the emotional anguish that young girls standing on the dawn of adult life experience? But as the play unfolds, every adult is likely reminded of his or her mental turmoil of adolescence and of their young girls they raised, mentored or taught. There is a certain steady building of empathetic investment into the characters that we experience. By the end of the play, we want each of these girls to go to Harvard or Stanford or heck a community college, indeed any vocation of choice; be on a winning team or not play on one if they so choose; find a partner of choice or be happily single; indeed we want them to fulfill their dreams and grow into kind and happy women. DeLappe’s faultless dialogues on a diverse range of topics, makes these girls so real, we love them like our own.
Big kudos to the talented cast, Leila Rosa, Carol Amalia ALban, Taylor Sanders, Alex Bokovikova, Alexandra Velasquez, Ariel Aronica, Annika Nori, Erin Southard, Beca Gilbert, and Janine Saunders Evans. Credits go to MacKenzie Blair and Sara Session for excellent staging. Director Kimberly Mohne Hill with assistance by Elena Maddy has done a fabulous job of giving on stage life to Sarah De Lappe’s The Wolves. This is an absolutely not-to-miss-play of this theater season and will be running The City Lights Theater in San Jose, CA until October 20, 2019. For tickets, go to www.cltc.org .
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports, Play Reviews on June 20, 2019
Ashadh ka ek din (on Kalidas) : Naatak Play Review – June, 2019
Found on principles of bringing on stage intelligent and entertaining shows pertaining to East Asian literature and arts in San Francisco bay area, Naatak has consistently surpassed expectations from a demanding audience.
In Naatak’s 69th production, writer Mohan Rakesh’s “Ashadh ka ek din”, the focus is on young love, simple and lyrical as a poem, pure and unspoilt as nature, passionate and brimming with hope as the drop of first rain, in the month of ashadh. It depicts the story of Kalidasa, classical Sanskrit writer and poet who is presumed to have created his works in the 4th century, and was a royal poet during the reigns of kings Chandragupta II and Yasodharman. Kudos to Naatak for fantastic staging. How they manage it, despite low ticket prices is a mystery.
It is as true today as it was then that stupendous achievements often come from heart-wrenching personal sacrifices. Kalidas (Anush Moorthy) was ahead of his times and his talents went unnoticed, in his little village. However the king in Ujjain was impressed by his work and sent him royal invitation to go to the capital, Ujjain and adorn the royal court as a national poet. Kalidas is reluctant to leave his beloved, Mallika (Preeti Bhat) who is the inspiration behind many of his works. But Mallika insists that he should not pass up this opportunity which will help bloom his talent.
Kalidas: nayi bhumi sukhi bhi to ho sakto hai
Mallika: koi bhumi aisi nahi jiske antar me komalta na ho, tumhari pratibha us komalta ka sparsh awashya pa legi.
At the insistence of Mallika, Kalidas leaves his village, not to return for several years. With the force of royal sponsorship, Kalidas writes many epics like medghdootam, kumarsambhawa and raghuwans, all the while his beloved Mallika continues to be his muse. While Mallika pines for Kalidasa in the village. Mallika’s mother Ambika (Anshu Johri) curses Kalidasa and refuses to be drawn into the flow of emotions that have gripped her young daughter.
Ambika: “ma ka jivan bhavna nahi, karm hai”.
Behind every successful man, there is a great sacrifice of a woman (of course, in the present times, opposite is also true). Produced by Alka Sippy and directed by brilliant, Manish Sabu, “ashadh ka ek din” is a story of love that is eternal, of time which stops for noone, and of sacrifice from which are born great works of art. One thing the play is not and I would have loved more of is Kalidasa’s work itself. The play does not focus as much on his poetry. Kalidasa had written Rutusamhara before he went to Ujjain. If the play included many lyrics from there which spoke of the beauty of the mountains, clouds and rains that appeared even more beautiful to the poet, in the company of his beloved, then it would have enhanced our joy. Nonetheless, it is a tender love story, with beautiful prose and heart-touching dialogues.
The play “Mothers and Sons” by playwright, Terrence McNally and directed by Jeffrey Bracco is a funny and poignant tale of loss and love. When Katharine (Lillian Bogovich), Andre’s mother shows up unexpectedly on the doorstep of Andre’s former boyfriend, Cal (Damian Vega), 20 some years after losing her son to AIDS, she is bitter, angry, hurt and in search of a target. Cal has also gone through deep loss but has found love again, in his husband Will (Max Tachis), and they have a son Bud (Izaiah Gutierrez), they deeply love. Still mourning and reeling from the loss of her son, Katharine sinks deeper into gloom at seeing Cal’s life. She asks, “why did your life got better after Andre and why did mine get worst”?
As per my observation however, this story is less about mothers and sons and more about one mother and her son. It is Katharine’s nature and temperament that has put her into an indefinite period of gloom and bitterness. She describes herself as “I am not a joiner, I did not like to cook, I am a widow”. Katherine could not cultivate intimacy and closeness with either her husband or her son, Andre. She recalls Andre being “remote” and observes with some contempt that she was relegated to being a mere chauffeur. Many mothers might have experiences of similar moments but they put aside those moments and find more enduring closeness and love with their children.
While Katharine’s temperament may have precluded her from enjoying a close relationship with her son, this story is also wrapped in time when gays did not find acceptance in society and were subjected to biases and stereotypes. Katharine, found it hard to reconcile her preconceived notions about gays. She says, “I hate that word. It could be something nice, joyful. But we lost that battle too”. Sadly, her life is an endless series of battles she has brought onto herself. And sadly, reeling in her own misery, she misses completely how an entire young generation of her son’s age was lost to AIDS epidemic, “a living, breathing generation, not a footnote in history”. Just when it seems, there would be no hope for Katharine, then in the midst of sorrow, the characters find moments of compassion and glimmer of hope, and even love. Mothers and Sons is a heartbreaking, emotionally nuanced story of unending mourning and loss and it is also a tale of human compassion where it is never too late to reconcile with one’s loss, only to stumble onto enduring nature of love. Lillian Bogovich as Katharine is absolutely amazing. This is a must-see play if only to watch the brilliant cast playing out the complex human drama with all the emotional nuances and with deep sensitivity. Mothers and Sons is running at the CityLights Theater in San Jose, till February 17, 2019 and tickets can be obtained at www.cltc.org .
Marsh Theater at 1062 Valencia in San Francisco is a friendly, laid back, 110 seat theater attached to a community art center, and is surrounded by stunning shops, cafes, lovely fusion food places, and avant garde artistic shops. The theater itself is a lovely place for writers and performers to easily develop no-frill performances.
In a recent performance that I attended, “A History of WWII: The D-Day Invasion to the Fall of Berlin”, multi award-winning actor and playwright, John Fisher took the audience on a whirlwind journey of or the WWII from the period between allied invasion of Normandy to the Fall of Berlin. Much happened during the short time period between June, 1944 and May, 1945 that finally marked the end of Hitler and the fall of Berlin.
This is a fascinating 85 minutes performance that takes the audience through the final year of the war, when some of the most fateful battles were fought. Fisher is recipient of several awards and in this fast paced solo performance, he does an incredible job of taking the audience through many of the war’s most crucial battles, generals, decisions and throws in information about books and movies that have memorialized these key battles. I will highly recommend this performance for World War II buffs.
Tickets for this show can be obtained at www.themarsh.org .
I was so fascinated by Fisher’s show that afterwards I went through my notes and learned more details about all the fascinating stories he shared in the show. I have attempted to summarize some of that history below for anyone wanting a ready reference of the crucial final year of the war.
History of WWI: The D-Day Invasion to the Fall of Berlin
The Battle of Dunkirk, fought in France, in 1940s had shown that the British had great air force and navy but lacked superior army power to win the war. Fortunately, Hitler’s army halted their advance at the time and it gave the Allies sufficient time to organize the Dunkirk Evacuation where more than 330,000 troops were rescued and it allowed the Allies to build a defensive line. United States was sitting on the side lines. On December 7, 1942, Japanese bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. US continued to maintain formal neutrality, mostly supplying ammunition. Japanese forces pursuing territorial expansionism, bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. That woke the sleeping giant. The day after Pearl Harbor, the US Congress officially declared war on Japan, and was followed by Britain. Three days later, Germany declared war on the United States. In the end, the US involvement changed the course of the War.
After referring to the history that led to United States joining the war, Fisher goes on play act scenes from the war, as shown in many war movies. In one of the final battles, the allied forces from US, Britain, Canada and Free French forces (later joined by contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece and the Netherlands joined the ground campaign and landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944 through parachutes, supported by massive air attacks and naval bombardments. Hitler then made a fateful strategic decision. In the aftermath of a failed coup, he recalled General Van Kluge General Kluge feared Hitler’s wrath and killed himself and that was German army’s great loss. Fisher’s description of the failed coup on Hitler, provided much comic relief, in this war story. It is amazing that his dissenting generals made multiple errors in carrying out one of the most impactful acts of their lives.
Fisher goes on to tell the story of Operation Market Garden, an unsuccessful military operation fought in the Netherlands, planned and led by the British Army, with an objective to seize a series of nine key bridges that could provide the Allies with an invasion route into Germany. While the Allies succeeded in the liberation of several bridges, they failed to secure the last bridge, over the Rhine and thus failed to cross the Rhine. This failed attempt is memorialized in the film, “A Bridge Too Far”. Fisher also gives out names of several reference books on the subject. Germans were still losing but they had not lost the will.
Launched through the densely forested region in Belgium and Luxembourg, The Battle of the Bulge, was the last major German campaign against the Allies. Germans intended to split the Allied lines. Due to allied overconfidence and negligence of this region, American forces manned by division of 16 and 17 year olds, bore the greatest brunt of the attack and American forces incurred their highest casualties of any operation during the war. This has been memorialized in the book, “The Ghost Front” written by twin brothers who survived the attack. Fortunately for the Allies, the battle also severely depleted Germany’s armored forces. The “Bulge” was the largest and bloodiest single battle fought by the United States in World War II and the second deadliest battle in American history.
However, until the Battle of the Bulge, America mostly provided resources and fire power. It was Russia that provided the blood, swet, and tears. Stalin was completely oblivious to the suffering and decimation of his troops. Despite significant losses, he continued to provide an inexhaustible supply of troops and ordered Soviet forces to “fight to the last man”, although women also participated in the battle. He also issues, “Not One Step Backward!” rule, which decreed that cowards were to be “liquidated on the spot.” In the end, while America lost slightly more than 400,000 soldiers (killed or missing) and almost no civilians during World War II, the USSR is believed to have lost at least 11,000,000 soldiers (killed and missing) as well as somewhere between 7,000,000 and 20,000,000 million of its civilians. While growing up, Fisher was fascinated by the war and by German generals speaking in interesting accent. But as the story gets closer to the end, the huge cost of war in terms of the lives lost, hangs in the air like a crude reality.
Despite enormous payout in terms of lives lost, Stalin’s ambitions were not contained and in the final stages of the fall of Berlin, there was a “Race to Berlin”, a sort of competition to enter Berlin between two Soviet marshals who separately commanded their armies to drive their men as fast as they could. Meanwhile American generals Montomery, Patton and even the Brits wanted to continue the advance into Berlin. But Eisenhower made a different choice. He wished to avoid further American casualties which were estimated to be around 100,000 American men, if they were to compete for Berlin. Eisenhower also wished to honor the agreement made with the Soviets at the Yalta Conference and allow Stalin to exert control over Berlin. The Americans leaving Berlin for the Soviets, enabled the Soviets to take the lead, and after the bloody “Battle of Berlin” (where the Soviets engaged in many atrocities and war crimes), the Soviets prevailed. This forever changed the course of history. Soviets implemented The Iron Curtain, both sides began the race for nuclear arms, and the ensuing Cold War lasted nearly 45 years.
The Hate U Give is a movie based on Angie Thomas’s award-winning book about the experience of Starr Carter, a black teen who witnesses the fatal police shooting of a close friend. Directed by George Tillman Jr. and written by Audrey Wells, the movie tells the story of race and racism, powerfully and without putting people into well defined buckets. It does not encapsulate “one black experience” of police suspicion and brutality towards black people, in a single story, and it does not summarize “one white reaction”, with a single story. Instead, in telling the story of a young black teenager against the backdrop of police suspicion of black people, father preparing his black children with stern lectures on how to behave during inevitable police stops; against the backdrop of white privilege, upward mobility, gang wars, poverty, and drugs, the movie offers a powerful portrayal of what it often means to grow up black in America.
Not all black people have a single story and not all grow up in poverty or in gang infested neighborhoods, or in dysfunctional homes. And yet, society often notices the color of the skin, before noticing the individual person, in that skin. Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) is a black teen. After a brief brush with criminal justice system and bad influence, her father (Russell Hornsby) owns and operates a store in a largely black neighborhood. It is on account of her mother’s (Regina Hall) determination, persistence, and relentless focus on education, and mom’s determination to change the circumstances and preempt the dysfunctionality in her family from affecting her children, that Starr’s future looks bright. Starr and her two brothers (Dominque Fishback and Lamar Johnson) attend the affluent, predominantly white prep school, and for a while appear to be completely shielded from the experiences of other black people around them.However, an unfortunate incident puts the family right in the center of it all. One evening, Starr is driven home from a party in her neighborhood, by her childhood friend, Khalil (Algee Smith). On the way home, they are stopped by a white police officer and unarmed Khalil is shot without any prominent reason. As the city erupts in riots, Starr has her own soul searching to do. Her friend Khalil is maligned because he was involved in drug peddling as he was taking care of his family while his mother was going through cancer treatments.
Amandla Stenberg is fantastic as Starr. This movie is immensely powerful because it focuses on the individual story of a young teen so well that it is through her experience, that we get a peek into the ignorance of some of her white friends as well as the openness of others. It is through her experience, that we learn, that it is not just a single major trauma of seeing a friend killed by gangs or by cops, that a young person is scarred. Instead, it is also the exhausting seeping of energy, drop by drop by drop. As an upwardly mobile person, Starr feels the pressure to hide her “blackness” from her non black peers, and her acquired “whiteness” from her black friends. Being half a person at any give time and living half the truth in each circumstance, takes an enormous toll and builds upon all the other traumas. It is through her experience that we learn how society has created two separate worlds, where even black cops are suspicious of black folks. In the end, this is a film about how one girl finds her own voice and opens the door to living a more authentic life. Not that it will be easy. But finally Starr finds the freedom to be her complete self, regardless of the context in which she interacts.
This is one of the best films of the year. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate the film 4.9.
Inspired by the steamy bestseller “Fifty Shades of Grey”, the movie “Book Club” offers for the fainthearted, the best comedy, minus any actual S&M action. A group of senior women, Vivian (Jane Fonda), Diane (Diane Keaton), Sharon (Candice Bergen) and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) choose to read the steamy bestseller and the result is a superbly funny comedy. These women are not the only high profile star cast. The men who enter their lives also make a fine cast and also deserve a special mention; they are, Mitchell (Andy Garcia), Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), Arthur (Don Johnson), George (Richard Dreyfuss), Tom (Ed Begley Jr.).
The desire for intimate companionship for seniors and perhaps for women more than men, is often relegated to the trash heap, in the channels of intimacy. While in some cultures, desire for intimacy among women may be a matter of amusement or may be discouraged in the espoused interest of safety, in others, it is actively frowned upon, banned and even punished.. (Watch my review of a similar Bollywood movie “Lipstick Under My Burkha” http://bit.ly/2p5b2Xm ). Cold showers is a remedy often prescribed in India, for any “wayward thoughts of intimacy”.
But it is not just in the realm of physical intimacy that this film delivers. Loneliness and craving for a companion who may be at similar stage in life, is often one of the most significant need among senior citizens. The film scores on addressing both of these issues, the significance of companionship and the need for physical intimacy, and shows how they sometimes (but not always) go hand in hand. Very likely these women have been doing book club for years. Maybe the right impetus, right circumstances did not arrive until this moment when all of them are intrigued with the thought of exploring the idea of intimacy and provide mutual encouragement. It matters but little, as long as they seized the moment.
Using the steamy book as a stepping stone, these women explore the aspect of physical intimacy; and at first kicking and screaming and later gently, glide into the cozy realm of emotional intimacy. They all at first, seem to concur with Vivian that “emotional connection is highly overrated” and make a pact “we shall not go gentle into the good night”. Brilliant and witty use of metaphors supplies an endless stream of humor. These feisty, fearless, independent women who provide companionship, solace and support to each other, fight the focus on softer, gentler aspects of intimacy with the opposite sex, for as long as they could. But in the end they find that physical intimacy is that much more satisfying and joyous when they are or if they are also able to find emotional connection. Even those among this feisty group, who can’t find intimacy, get it. Sharon sums up about love (and it is rephrased here), love does not happen because the person is intelligent or pretty and it’s not the sun or the moon or all the meaning we load onto it; love is just a word, until someone gives it meaning, and you find that someone when you put yourself out there. \
It is a beautiful movie and on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent, I rate it 4.7 – in theaters now.
The Siegel by Michael Mitnick, directed by Mark Anderson Phillips is a beautiful romantic comedy, with the title poking fun at the Chechov classic, “The Seagull”. Ehan Siegal (Ben Euphrat) is in love with Alice (Ella Dershowitz) and though Alice and Ethan have broken up about two years ago, as the play opens, Ethan is with Alice’s parents, Ron (Erik Gandolfi) and Deborah (Luisa Sermol) asking them for Alice’s hand in marriage.
Ethan is on a mission to convince everyone who would be willing to get a dinner or down a few drinks that he deserves a second chance. Ethan tries to convince Alice’s mystified parents. “The point is, I will love you daughter as if she were my daughter”, says the aspiring groom. When Ron and Deborah remain unconvinced, Ethan manages to persuade Ron to have a beer with him where he reads the poem he has written for Alice.
Alice herself is not only determinedly against the entire idea but to complicate matters, she has recently moved in with her boyfriend, Nelson (David Morales). Ethan forces himself on their dinner date and Nelson is somewhat intrigued and amused by Alice’s ex boyfriend. But when Ethan manages to convince Alice to go on a dinner date, Nelson is no longer amused and he too shows up at her parents’ home to ask her hand in marriage. This prompts Alice’s bemused father to inquire, “well how many goats do you offer”?
If the goal is for Alice to be with the person who is a better match for her, then an equally pertinent question lingers in the air, “Do you think there is only one person out there for us”? For Alice, is that person Ethan or Nelson? This isn’t a play with a remarkable story. But it is a play with the most memorable, best cast of characters and each of them do do complete justice to their roles. Each one is just perfect or with just the right mix of quirkyness. “A cast is kind of a living, breathing organism”, says director Phillips and the result is this superbly funny play that leaves you in splits of laughter.
It would be amiss to not notice an underlying sadness, a gentle touch of melancholy underneath all the drama. Without dwelling on it too much, it leaves the audience with a whole host of nagging questions. “Do we settle sometimes in life, because it is the right thing to do in that moment or because it takes too much courage to change course, and how long a shadow will that cast on one’s future happiness?” A memorable gem is a quote from Alice’s mother to Alice, “the person who you enjoy being with, is the person you should be with”. This is not-to-miss play of this theater season and is running at Citylights Theater in San Jose. For tickets, go to www.cltc.org .
Unlike a typical feminist Bollywood heroine, Sulochana or Sulu (Vidya Balan) in this movie, is neither excelling in athletics (Mary Kom or Chak De India), nor is she on a mission (Kahaani), nor is she fighting for a right cause (Mardaani). Instead, film “Tumhari Sulu”, written and directed by Suresh Triven, is about a typical middle class suburban “housewife”, beaten down by her more ambitious and traditional family, buoyed by her love for her husband and son, and occasionally dreaming of a better life and yet perfectly happy with her life as it is.
Sulu’s life takes a turn when her obsession with entering small contests and winning prizes lands her in the role of a nighttime RJ and catapults her to fame. Her husband Ashok (Manav Kaul) works as a manager in a small tailoring firm and puts up with inefficiency, disdain and insults from his bosses, just to bring home a paycheck. With his wife’s entry into the workplace and resulting fame, Ashok not only has to deal with his work pressures in a dead end job, but has to pull higher load of responsibilities on the home front, while he is forced to listen to judgmental comments from others about his wife’s career.
How will Ashok and Sulu’s family resolve the new challenge that is rocking their relationship? Vidya Balan is highly entertaining as Sulu and Manav Kaul has played a strong supportive role. The challenges faced by this family may easily mirror those faced by many suburban middle class families and their experiences when gender roles go through a ringer. With fabulous cast and excellent subject matter, this film had a huge potential to be one of the social blockbuster films. Instead with unnecessarily elongated time, useless songs, weak climax and slow meandering pace, it seems to lose focus and fails to leave a mark.
On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent, I rate it a 3.2 .
Based on a series of true events, the movie tells the story of how a team of young bright mathematicians cracked the Nazi code that helped the Allies win World War II. Prominent among them was, a brilliant, young Alan Turing, who was a British computer scientist, mathematician, logician, philosopher, marathon runner and is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. And he was a homosexual. A small seemingly irrelevant details about his sexual orientation, at a time in history when homosexuality was a crime, also makes this beautiful movie, a devastatingly sad one.
Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) was recruited by British Intelligence Agency M16 to crack Nazi codes, including Enigma, which was considered unbreakable. Turing’s team included Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), Hugh Alexander (Matthew William Goode), Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong), and John Cairncross (Allen Leech).
During World War II, strongest weapon of the Axis forces were their Enigma machines, which were largely unbreakable and enabled them to plan and communicate their strategy, unhindered. Turing and his team built a machine to break the code, that allowed Allied forces to intercept Axis communications and gave them access to information that ultimately helped the Allied forces win the war.
The focus of the film is primarily on the time that Turing spent at Bletchley Park. Bletchley Park was the central site of UK’s top secret, code breaking operation. It is presumed that the “Ultra” intelligence produced at Bletchley shortened the war by two to four years, and that without it the outcome of the war would have been uncertain. Besides Turing’s team, there were a whole cadre of brilliant young women working on manual code breaking, and “Bletchley Circle”, a mini series, recently aired on PBS, tells the story of four women who reunite years later to track down serial killers.
In 1939 however, this was such a top secret operation that everyone was forbidden to share any details of their work. At the end of the war, these unsung heroes of the war, quietly went home. The movie is also a sort of an indictment of Britain’s shoddy treatment of these heroes, primarily Turing, who was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual behavior and he accepted oestrogen injections (equivalent to chemical castration), to avoid prison. In 1954, Turing committed suicide. His is a story that needs to be told and kudos to Director, Morten Tyldum and Screenplay writer, Graham Moore for bringing it to the screen. Cumberbatch has done a fabulous job as Turing.
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 4.8.