"West Bollywood" is a play with music and dance and family drama and passion and lots of magical realism….it’s very, very Indian.
The playwright Aruna Harjani is based in Jakarta. Living and working for years as a journalist and film and TV producer she has already written several very successful plays all produced in Jakarta, but "West Bollywood" is her first foray into the U.S. pallet. Since the subject of the play is gay marriage, and interracial at that, it became clear to Aruna that something so potentially volatile could not be staged in her home country, so she headed here, and the results are something unique, moving and highly entertaining.
The story revolves around a gay Indian man, Pratap, living with his traditional Indian family who falls in love, then proposes to his white boyfriend. While he has always been out to his traditional Indian family and they are supportive of that, they are pretty shocked when he brings Daniel home, in all his delightful, sweet Caucasian glory.
And so the chaos of Daniel becoming a good Indian ‘wife' ensues and as he struggles with it all himself, he obliterates the stuffy, old-school Indian structure of the family, with the grandmother as an iron-fisted matriarch and making everyone’s life as miserable as her own.
All this is done with wonderful characters, fun, fluid staging and heavenly Bollywood dance sequences leading us from one scene to the next. Daniel’s family is also part of the action, both his parents and his sister - who has her own crazy dynamic with Pratap. The drama doesn’t comes from where you might expect though, not the same-sex marriage or the turmoil in Pratap’s home, but rather comically and more traditionally from the usual hiccups in relationships, not enough time together, the stress of a new life, adjusting to each other’s families, etc. It’s an interesting twist on what could have been just a play about a gay marriage between an Indian man and a white American man. Instead, it becomes far more complex and more human.
All the performances are flawless. The characters are written, large and colorful and unapologetically bold, so it would be easy for an actor to simply overact. But no one does, they are inspired by the hilarity of the writing and supported by the kind of direction that allows them to be fearless. It makes for an excellent show. Funny, insightful and compelling and a fascinating glimpse into the world of the traditional Indian family life, even as the story drags them all kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
I thoroughly enjoyed “West Bollywood” and I anticipate another hit show for its rather clever writer, Aruna Harjani.
It’s a hopeful play that lives in a world where same-sex marriage is considered a natural evolution for humans rather than something else to fight about. Bravo!
Daniel - Derek DeVault
Pratap - Abhi Sinha
Grandfather - Koushik
Lachu - Sameer Khan
Grandmother - K.T. Thangavelu
James - Paul Michael Nieman
Olivia - Juli Cuccia
Jamie - Cara Delaporta
Leela - Abbe Rowlins
Adriana Rafaela, Alexa Lucchese, Estefanie Morena, Jacob Magana, Monica Moskatow, Nick DiCola, Shivani Thakkar, and Taylor Jayne
Choreographer - Danish Bhandara
Stage Manager - Angelica Estevez
Set Design - Pete Hickok
Lighting Design - Donny Jackson
Costume Design - Michael Mullen
Projection Design - Katerina Pagsolingan
Sound Design - Matt Richter
Wig/Makeup Design - Byron Batista
Casting Director - Tony Gonzalez
Prop Mistress - Wendie Goode Dox
Stage Hands - Kim Walker & Toby Pennyworth
Production Consultant - Leigh Fortier
Publicist - Nora Feldman
Graphic Design – Loren Fierman
Program Design – Brad Steinbauer