A Night of Dichotomy
by Shaleen Kalsi | Staff Writer
‘I tell you woman! You’re the devil!’
ADA’s drama night, titled ‘Rubaroo’, kicked off with a brief introduction to the club, spiked with a dash of slapstick, that set the stage for two back-to-back performances.
Described as a satire based on the age-old parable of five blind men and an elephant, the first feature of the night, ‘Andhon ka haathi’, though laced with genius metaphors, failed to deliver much of what was promised. The ‘sutradhar’ or narrator initially did manage to build up the audience’s curiosity with the monologue, but it waned as the play progressed. All that the initial scenes of the ‘andhas’ managed to do was to create a rickety foundation for the play to go on.
The narrative was slow and seemed dragged-out at places. Often-times the antics of the cast, particularly Rahul Pareek’s zealous acting, kept the audience hooked. Acting blind was an ordeal that the actors barely pulled off with Mithil Goswami and Praveen Raj coming the closest. The depicted heated arguments led to tension on-stage and often confused the audience.
The humour in the play, which occasionally invited guffaws, was rather light and sprinkled with innuendo. The ‘andhas’ were depicted as lazy public servicemen, law makers, and politicians. Still, it cannot be denied that the metaphors, however heavy, were brilliant. At the end, each ‘andha’ had found a part of the ‘haathi’ believing that the part they had found was the whole creature. One called the tail a rope while another mistakenly claimed the leg was a pole, rather cleverly depicting the myriad ways in which something can be interpreted. The last minute was comparatively more engaging. The metaphors unravelled and the suggestion at the end that everyone, even the ‘sutradhar’, is blind did leave the audience ruminating, albeit for a short while.
The narrative was intended to highlight the state of problem solving and policy implementation in our country but sadly, the delivery of the play lacked power and despite the issue being quite relevant, the cast failed to enthuse the audience. The flow of the performance was fractured at places and the ambitious urge to make the audience ponder about the elephant fell flat. In the end, the brilliant plot could not atone for the lacking delivery and it seemed that neither the cast nor the audience was ready for a satire as deep as this one.
After a five-minute break, the second performance, ‘The Respectable Prostitute’, an adaptation of a play by Jean-Paul Sartre began. The introductory scenes, though rather slow, did build up the intended mood of the play. Elise, the prostitute, was shown as cleaning her quite generic bedroom. The story picked up pace as an engaging plot was woven, carried rather brilliantly by the actors.
The prostitute’s vehement refusal to lie as she considered it immoral brought out the dichotomy inherent in the storyline. Utkarsh Srivastava, playing the falsely accused Indian, rarely faltered. The actor depicted the emotions of desperation and horror with finesse and the impeccable comic timing induced humour where intended. Saumya Sundar’s and Raghav Agrawal’s exchanges as Elise and Fabien were quite engaging but left out a want for more intensity. Fabien quite ironically calls Elise ‘the devil’ even though he is the one trying to emotionally and physically dominate her into lying. The play raises complex psychological issues on race and class as Elise and Fabien fall for each other and she is manipulated by him and his people into bearing false witness.
The stark racial discrimination is highlighted and the cast takes the audience along as they and Elise both realise the fact that the Indian is being punished simply because he is Indian. The lines are laced with innuendo and the audience cringes at the right places as all the male characters make passes at Elise. Fabien and the policeman try to intimidate her into bearing false witness by citing class and race, delivering a telling commentary on the role played by these. The audience clucked as the governor brilliantly manipulated Elise into saving his nephew. The sly man cited his sister’s grief and appealed to the emotional side of Elise who in the end quite painfully realised that a price tag of a mere 50 bucks had been put on her genuine gesture. The role of Governor Dumas was enacted rather skilfully by Aubrey Clive Mendonca and the audience quite rightly ended up hating him. The fact that the Indian man feels guilty even through no fault of his own raised questions that truly can never be answered. In the end, the Indian ran away and the curtain dropped rather abruptly as Elise agreed to ‘belong to’ Fabien.
Besides the actors, the light and sound department did an excellent job. Live flutes filled in as the background music for the first play and succeeded in developing the right mood. For the second play, a pre-recorded but quite an apt background score was used.
When it came to the audience, the night was saved clearly by the latter play. The performances were amiss and there were quite a few glitches. Failure of the first play and the moderate success of the second one added up to a rather lukewarm show. After a night of introducing the audience to theatre ‘face to face’, ADA might end up saving face.