News & Reviews

5 plays, 8 actors and a merry evening Author:Roshan Choudhury   Posted On:2018-04-27


'Yeh dil maange more' - words with which MC Raju Raman set the stage on the sultry evening of April 25th. The much awaited short play reading session was back at DI, in the cosy setting of the well-loved bar. Play reading, like any live performance, requires its set of audience etiquette which was laid out by the MC and followed happily by the attentive audience. Raju shared the plan for the evening - five short comic plays in English. The 'more' he promised is to come soon - another play reading session, with plays in Bengali and Hindi. The revival of play reading sessions is very welcome indeed.

The Wedding Story by Julianne Homokay

"Good night, don’t let the bed bugs bite” are not quite the words you expect to hear at the start of a play, that too from a fairytale Storyteller. The Storyteller (Raju Raman) was determined to tell the story of green fields, white picket fences, a 27 year old handsome young Groom and his 24 year old  beautiful young Bride, who met in high school, married in a quaint church with a reception to follow in Vermont.

The Bride (Bisakha Sen Das) and Groom (Raja Shah), whose story was being told, however, objected to this rosy spectacled version of their story. Theirs was a modern day story of a 35 year-old Bride and a 24 year-old Groom. And their story began, not in the high school, but in a loud bar, and their wedding at a drive through chapel in Vegas.

The Storyteller refused to let reality take away the sparkle of his fairytale and emphatically declared that "the average American woman gets married at 24", invoking chuckles from the audience. So of course the bride had to be 24. The Bride and Groom, despite their emerging differences, argued with the Storyteller about reality of marriage, marriage venues and Geography. Finally the Bride told Mr Storyteller to put the reality in the fairytale and ‘smoke it', inviting a roar of laughter from the rapt audience. Finally the threat of a 'multiple class-action suit' had the desired effect and brought the fairytale loving Storyteller back to reality. The Storyteller now decided to give the 'realist' Bride and Groom a taste of their own reality-bites medicine. 

Gone were the white picket fences and perfect American Bride and Groom. The 'real' stories of the 35 year old bride and the slightly effeminate 24 year old Groom, living in their trailer park emerged. The tale of their grim dim futures certainly had the desired effect and the tables turned - realists became optimists, and the Bride and Groom ran after the Storyteller to go back to fairytale ending.

Bishakha as the Bride and Raja as the Groom, perfectly enacted the realists and their indignation, when their stories were being told...err mis-told … by the Storyteller, brought out much laughter from the audience. Raju as the Storyteller was a pleasure to watch and had the audience laughing out loud as he claimed "...because he's really gay". This play depicted how stereotypes work in fairytales, yet those very stereotypes give us hope and in this case gave us a good round of laughter.

The Audition by Neil Simon

A Writer (Ian Zachariah) is auditioning for a role in his play and a budding actress Nina (Christabel D’Gama) walks in for an audition. The witty exchange between the jaded writer and eager to please Nina was a delight to watch. Nina Mikhailovna Zarcchhaya was ready to be any age for the audition and her coyly expressed "What age are you looking for?" drew appreciative chuckles from the audience.

Nina's declaration about how she had waited 3 months to get on the 6-month waiting list for this audition invoked much laughter. Eager Nina would not let small things like burning fever get in the way of her audition, specially not after her 4-day travel and 6+3 month wait for the audition.  Nina considered herself to be a professional in her hometown Odessa, but in Moscow, the Writer finds her to be an amateur.

The polite Writer finds it difficult to dissuade Nina, who resorts to flattery to get her chance to audition. Her emphatic declaration about how she could not stop laughing after reading a particular story by the Writer leaves the Writer very puzzled, after all he meant the story to be a tragedy. Nina says she found it "tragically funny" leaving the Writer even more confused and the audience roaring with laughter.

Persistence and charm won, and Nina was finally able to audition. While she wanted to enact a favourite play from Act 1, the Writer asks her to stick to an excerpt. So focussed was Nina on her goal - to audition before the Writer, that she walked off the stage, ready to go back to Odessa, as soon as she had finished saying her lines. Nina's charm, persistence and talent won over the reluctant but polite Writer, and now he wanted her back.

Christabel as Nina was phenomenal - in the way she expressed herself not only through the well delivered dialogue, but through every nuance she depicted with her apt expressions and brilliant body language.  Ian was flawless as he played the polite, jaded but charmed Writer. The incredible stage presence and talent was a treat to watch.

The Surgery by Neil Simon 
This play was about 'The tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth'. Pain invokes tears, and although this play was about the pain a Holy man - the Sexton, this play made the audience hold their bellies as they roared with laughter. The Father (Ian Zachariah), in the throes of 'unbearable' no 'unendurable' pain visits a dentist, who is away, and encounters, a new, inexperienced assistant (Leslie D’Gama) who considers himself quite skillful and only a degree away from being a doctor. The brilliant interplay that followed was a pleasure to watch. It was funny to watch the moaning and groaning Father as he alternatively blessed the assistant and prayed to God to spare him pain.

The new assistant resorting to Dutch courage certainly did not invoke much confidence but this seemed to be the only way to "steady his nerves". The Father's prayers, interspersed with talk of advancement in science invoked much laughter as did the brilliant acting by the two actors. The new assistant tried to convince the Father to open his mouth as it was " practically impossible to pull out a tooth from outside". From the examination to the extraction of the tooth, the interaction between the two actors had the audience roaring with laughter. The Father called the assistant dentist "you carpenter" for all the failed efforts in extracting his tooth. By the end, both the new assistant and the Father were praying - The father to keep the assistant's hand steady and the assistant so that the father didn’t bite off his fingers as “his first solid food in a week”.

The powerful performance by two phenomenal actors made this play both a treat and delight to watch. Ian's portrayal of the feeble Father in pain was both completely believable and comic. Excellent comic timing and incredible performances by Ian and Leslie will be cherished by the appreciative audience for long. Ian's fall off the chair seemed so real that many asked Ian afterwards, if he was ok. Leslie as the enthusiastic assistant was flawless.

There was a 15 minute break after the first 3 plays during which audience was treated to another incredible performance by Akash Bhattacharya, on the grand piano on stage. His nimble fingers worked magic on the piano keys. Akash played one beautiful piece after another, setting the mood for the evening.  Wilson, a DI regular member, called him "limitless Akash" in appreciation of his incredible talent.

"After a long time I am really enjoying this. After a stressful day, this is so relaxing and enjoyable ... I specially enjoyed watching Ian and Leslie in the last play" said DI club regular Sulagna Mukhopadhyay during the break, referring to the brilliant play reading.

Subhalakshmi Gupta, a young, pretty doctor herself said "We have such scenes all the time" referring to the enthusiastic assistant doctor. She said she could totally relate to the doctor assistant portrayed brilliantly by Leslie.

No Frills Airlines 

The complex world of "No frills Airlines" was beautifully depicted as a customer (Raja Shah) tries to book a flight ticket. "No Frills airlines is not linked to the length of the skirt, but plenty of thrill" invoked much laughter from audience, fresh back after the break.

The airline representative (Christabel D’Gama) happily quoted one bizarre fee after the other. Convenience fee, sur-charge, incidental expenses, safe landing fee, pilot fee, co-pilot fee, inconvenience fee for lost baggage, overhead circulation fee etc were all charged on this "no frills airlines". As the airline representative rolled off one charge after another, the audience laughed merrily and thanked the stars above that such charges were not a part of the real world, yet. Any questioning from the customer invoked a "It is the airline policy" response from the perky airline representative, played by Christabel, who once again gave a brilliant performance. Raja played the role of the perplexed and exasperated customer convincingly.

After all the bizarre charges, the customer was expected to tip generously. Thank heavens we live in a world where the airlines have not been so creative with their charges. Raja did end with a reference to the No Tipping Policy at the DI.

Murder by Midnight by Jeff Goode 

We live in a world where time is money, specially where overtime is money. In this story however, overtime is no money.  Detective Dick Piston (Vikram Duggal) worked till the minute his shift was over, not a minute more. So every day, from Monday to Friday, Dick Piston worked as a detective in Lake view hotel. He worked to "clockwork precision". He nonchalantly claimed he worked in a hotel where there had been "6 murders in 5 weeks and I have committed 4," drawing much laughter from the audience. His Friday night wait for 12 o'clock was interrupted by a girl in a bath towel (Rituparna Sen Dutta). She claimed to be a victim in need of some help. On enquiry, she revealed her husband was the "killeree" and not the killer. This play had several twists and turns, and the exchange between the suave detective and the coy woman was a treat to watch. The murder of the Bellhop added to the fun.

Vikram played the "proverbial" Detective with flair and Rituparna as the woman in distress was both enchanting and poised. Their comic timing was excellent.

"A most welcome break from my daily humdrum life”, said DI play-reading regular Anjan Gupta. He recalled his own school-days when he acted himself.

"A good variety of plays - the first one had a deeper meaning, the second one, portrayed real life experience and was really funny and in the last one, the woman's character was interesting. In fact, each play had its own very distinct characters and were very engaging", was the astute observation from first time play-reading viewer, Sanchita Gupta.

"The most exciting part of play reading is the build up where we sift through dozens of scripts, try to match readers to roles and rehearse. This time we did all that within 10 days - a DI record", observed Leslie. A truly remarkable feat indeed! Kudos to all those involved.

Loud applause followed each performance which clearly showed "yeh dil mangey more" as we wait for the next session of such wholesome, thoroughly enjoyable entertainment.