Directed by Ann Filmer
At Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, Chicago
Global intertwining of business and cultures clash in Disconnect
If you’ve ever call a call center for support, you’ll be able to relate to Anupama Chandrasekhar’s Disconnect. It is a fresh look at the outsourcing of American jobs to India where speaking flawless English is considered a high status accomplishment. Disconnect is set in Chennai, India in 2009 during the American recession at a bad debt collection agency.
We meet, Avinash (Kamal J. Hans), a forty-something employee of a progressive Indian company where youth and productivity are core values. He is out of touch with the modern global aspects of the company that he has worked at for thenceforth years before it was bought by the youth-oriented management team. He is demoted to the “Illinois” room to supervisor a team of eleven collectors who are poor producers. This is his last chance to prove that he belongs. We see how Avinash try to discipline his creative collectors into doing their collections by the company script. This causing conflict as the generations collide.
He is thrust upon three 20-somethings who speak American English almost flawlessly as they out wit their “marks” into paying off their long delinquent credit card debts. Filled with humor, bittersweet and observant perspectives on how Indians see Americans, Disconnect is an interesting theatrical event- a sort of 21st. Century Glengarry Glen Ross. The three collectors in the tough-to-collect severs debt section are creative and extremely knowledgeable with American slang and vernacular. Actually, the terrific performance by Debargo Sanyal, as Ross was marred by his expert use and knowledge of American English with a deep understanding of American pop culture that his character presented. I can buy his learning slang and pop culture, but his flawless non-accented use of American English was a stretch. Maybe if the playwright had said that Ross had lived in Chicago for five years, I’d buy his intimate mastery of American slang and tonality. His other two collection partners spoke fine American English but in a more believably with a slight hint of a Hindi accent.
We see Ross and Giri (Behzad Dabu) and Vidya (Minita Gandhi) as they out wit their deadbeat marks into paying at least some of their debts. We see how hard they work and how important this mind-numbing phone work can be. We also see how much they Indian youths want to be apart of the American Dream. As they deal with the problems of a consumer culture in America and now spreading to India. they each became “Americanized.” We see the master collector, Ross, become so involved with his personalized strategy for collecting money that he falls in love with one of his marks. He sees himself as so “American” that his empathy becomes infatuation. This leads to severe consequences that threatens the stabilization of the “Illinois” room.
This is a smart, well acted, especially by Debargo Sanyyal as Ross, drama about a contemporary issue of outsourcing and its consequences for both Americans and Indians. Our concept of a global village is given a fresh look for the perspective of Indian 20soemthings. Disconnect is worth dialing into.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: February 4, 2013
For more info checkout the Disconnect page at theatreinchicago.com
At Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773-871-3000, www.victorygardens.org, tickets $20 – $50, Wednesdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Saturday matinee at 4 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 1 hour, 45 minutes without an intermission, thru February 24, 2103