Posts Tagged Shakespeare
How to make a comedy written in 1590, come alive in 2015? Actually that is not even the full challenge tackled in this production by Manish Sabu and Juhi Mohan. The main challenge here is how to adapt a Shakespearean comedy to a community at the other end of the world and still retain its beauty, its sharp wit, and colorful dialogs.
Bay area’s NAATAK company rose to the challenge and exceeded all expectations in its theatrical production of “Taming of the Shrew”! There are absolutely no other words to describe but to say KUDOS for such a fabulous adaptation of Shakespearean comedy to Bundelkhandi, set in India. Don’t balk if you did not even know such a language existed in India. The language is a close cousin of Hindi and appropriately coordinated translation in English appears on two close circuit monitors on both sides of the stage. I can guarantee that the audience could not have enjoyed as fully this production in Hindi, as they can enjoy it in Bhundelkhandi. It is the difference in watching Shakespeare’s play in regular English versus watching it in Shakespearean English. Somehow this play in Bundelkhandi feels like it was originally written in Bundelkhandi. Yes, it feels that natural!! The production in fact begins with couple of little challenges thrown at the audience, to get them thinking in Bundelkhandi – which is also awesome!
Bundelkhandi dialect is earthy, rich, and beautiful.
Consider how rich this dialog feels in Shakespeare’s English. Gremio is questioning Baptista about his quieting his good and patient daughter Bianca and making her bear the penance of his “fiend” of a daughter Kathrina.
Why will you mew her up,
Signior Baptista, for this fiend of hell,
And make her bear the penance of her tongue?
In Bundelkhandi, Kathrina, the shrew, fiendish, evil, wicked one is referred to as “karkasa”.
Petruchio marries Kathrina and then insists they leave, without partaking in the feast. Kathrina resists and seeks help from others and Petruchio says
She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my any thing;
And here she stands,
Kathrina is now Petruchio’s “amanat”.
Petruchio then lovingly manipulates Kathrina, and masterfully takes on the nearly impossible task of taming his new bride, as Tranio explains to Bianca
Petruchio is the master;
That teacheth tricks eleven and twenty long,
To tame a shrew and charm her chattering tongue.
and Petruchio himself boasts
hum jo padhat hai, vo hi hum sikhaut hai, pirem ki kala
Finally, Petruchio succeeds in taming his shrew, and Kate learns not to argue with him, and she says,
And be it moon, or sun, or what you please:
An if you please to call it a rush-candle,
Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me.
In Bundelkhandi, Kathrina says,
Chahe to suraj he, chahe chandrama, aur tum kaho to mombatti.
Some Shakespeare’s plays depart moral messages, whereas some are just humorous ones to be enjoyed for the sharp wit. Obviously, there is not moral message that would be applicable in this century, in Taming of the Shrew. But in regular English or in Hindi, it would seem preachy. Whereas in Bundelkhandi, this is a beautiful production, with marvelously talented cast, and perfectly suited staging. This play is full of sharp wit, performed in an Indian language that is ancient and earthy, yet easily accessible and enjoyed by all.
Every theater season, I share for my readers, not-to-miss-play of the season in South Bay area. For my Hindi speaking readers, without hesitation, I choose this NAATAK production as not-to-miss-play in this theater season. Please get your tickets before it is too late at www.naatak.org .
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.
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 .
Shady Shakespeare company is presenting “Othello” at Sanborn Park in Saratoga (see more information below). Written around 1600, “Othello” is a tragic love story that revolves around four central characters: Othello (Michael Wayne Rice), a Moorish general in the Venetian army, Desdemona (beautifully played by Anne Yumi Kobori), Iago, Othello’s ensign (Robert Campbell is superbly devlilish in the role), and Othello’s lieutenant, Cassio (Alex Draa).
Othello, a moor who is also lower in rank, is accused of alluring Christian Desdemona, a senator’s daughter, with his “cunning” and “foul charms”, and is asked a crucial question in the senate, “Did you by indirect and forced courses subdue and poison this young maid’s affections? Or came it by request and such fair question as soul to soul affordeth?” Othello succeeds in convincing the Senator that he did not lure beautiful Desdemon by “witchcraft” but instead their love was mutual and she was drawn to him and fell in love with him because of his sad and compelling stories as a general who fought many wars. “She lov’d me for the dangers I had pass’d, And I lov’d her that she did pity them”, he says.
Iago hates Othello for previously promoting Cassio, and is jealous of Cassio, and plots to get him drunk and then persuades dissolute stammering Roderigo to draw Cassio into a fight. (Special shoutout to Erik Browne for doing a fantastic job in his role as Roderigo). Othello blames Cassio for the disturbance and strips him of his rank. Cassio is distraught and mourns the blemish on his fine reputation and Iago says, “Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving.” But Cassio wants his reputation and rank restored and seeks the favor of Desdemona and implores her to persuade her husband on his behalf, to reinstate him.
Iago takes this as a perfect opportunity to persuade Othello to be watchful of Cassio and Desdemona and the seeds for suspicion are planted. Iago masterfully works to create proof of Desdemona and Cassio’s alliance and Othello’s suspicion is strengthened. Herein, where the “green-ey’d monster, jelousy” raises its ugly head that the beautiful story of Othello and Desdemona’s love sharply transforms into a disturbing tragedy that in the end, wreaks havoc and creates mayhem. Despite Othello’s ill treatment of Desdemona, she tells her maid, Emilia (Melissa Weinstein), “his unkindness may defeat my life, But never taint my love.”. And thus Othello who loves deeply, “not wisely, but too well”, sets himself on a path that defeats her life and ultimately breaks his heart. Director Dawn Monique Williams has done a fabulous job and also great kudos to Caitlyn Nichols (Stage Manager) and Jennie Rodriguez (Costume Designer). I call “Othello” a must-see performance of this theater season.
Shady Shakespeare Theater Company makes Shakespeare accessible and entertaining by maintaining the richness of the language while also making it less challenging to understand it by creating a beautiful historical context, with enticing consumes, beautiful staging, and through awesome performance by talented artists. Shady Shakespeare will be presenting “Othello” and “Pride and Prejudice” on alternate weekends at Sanborn Park in Saratoga, until August, 24. For tickets, go to www.shadyshakes.org.