Three plays about the South Asian diaspora
By Anita Chandwaney
By Angeli Primlani
By Pushkar Shatma
Directed by Lavina Jadhwani
Produced by Rasaka Theatre Company
At Strawdog Theatre
Three one-acts not ready for the stage
Rasaka Theatre Company’s Yoni Ki Baat was an artistic success, so I thought I’d cover their latest show, culture/clash. It would seem that the three new one-acts that covered the experiences of diaspora (group migration or dispersal outside of their homeland) by peoples from South Asia were rushed to the stage because none were ready for any audience.
“Instant Recall,” by Anita Chandwaney, is an under developed piece about an Indian woman who meet an Englishman on a cruise ship. This short play tries to do too much and ultimately fizzles.
“Night Shift,” by Angeli Primlani, deals with a white woman who works in a hotel’s night shift. Her friendship with a South Asian twelve year old, the daughter of the hotel’s owner, is forced to suit the play. When a man tries to make sexual advances toward the woman, the girl helps her out. Again, this poorly acted piece seemed forced and contrived.
“Midnight Vulture,” by Pushkar Sharma, was by far the longest and most irritating of the three one-acts. This over-written, convoluted, preachy, foul-mouthed, disorganized and manipulated work was an offensive bore that droned on seemingly for hours. The two-hander tried to cover every cliche, every contemporary pop culture reference including craigslist, sexual encounters all so the playwright could pontificate, preach and push an anti-American, bigoted philosophy. This wordy piece contained several long speeches that sounded like lectures , then the characters started to spout hip-hop street poetry filled with rap-like foul-mouthed nonsense. Ha? Next, the two exchanged unintelligible wordplay as they sipped drug-lfilled liquor.
This propaganda piece tries to make a case paralleling the plight of the “Red Indian” with the “Dot Indian” (Sharma’s words, not mine) as if the folks from India’s troubles (?) were somewhat similar to the genocide of the American Indians. This preposterous piece contained gimmicks such as references to a character in the Simpson’s TV show. I was lost since I don’t watch network TV. We are lured in to the piece as the two characters get together in a cemetery supposedly to have sex but the assertive girl, Nicotine (Nadia Anwar) only wants to harass and mentally torture the horny, ex-financial wiz, Gravy (Anand Bhatia). This added an anti-male tone to the anti-everything tone of this too complicated polemic. We are forced to sit through the long rants, raps and diatribes as the piece just wouldn’t end until Sharma attacked, ridiculed and slammed most contemporary American conventions. So much rage that we become numbed and bored quickly. The couple never does have sex.
These three one-acts need to be re-thought and the last one (Midnight Vultures) sure could a major cutting and re-focus since the limited valid thoughts gets lost in all the rhetoric. It is never wise to rush theatre pieces into production. Americans and South Asians alike should be offended by Sharma’s play.
At Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, call 312-777-1070, tickets $20, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 4 pm, running time is 95 minutes without intermission.