Sunday, April 26, 2015

Play Review: The Guest List

“It’s better to have loved and lost than to live with a Psycho for the rest of your life”
These are the words I saw written on a porcelain plate somewhere once and the words stuck to me.  Nothing describes divorces and this play more aptly. Four guests, trapped in a restaurant with no waiter, and the host missing sounds like a mystery plot. It starts like one with a an uptight, rich antiques dealer Bengali guy named Roy playing Sherlock Holmes about why he was there and where the host is along with a loud, dumb as a rock Punjabi Nikunj. However, it soon turns into a clash of the ex’s as “No.3” arrives. Roy’s thought of “What can be worse than this?” is answered in form of his equally uptight and successful but confused Punjabi ex-wife Ashima Khurana entering the scene. Things get even more interesting with the arrival of “Guest No.4” who is none other than Nikunj’s archeologist ex-wife Gauri.  But shit really hits the fan when the fifth guest arrives.

Photo Credit: Blue Phoenix Productions FB Page

Co-Produced by Blue Phoenix Productions and Leap Of Faith Productions in association with EOS21, “The Guest List” is a story of an encounter gone hay wire where two ex-couples are embroiled in a surprising tale of events filled with dramatic twists and turns. This has to be one of the most original, well written and well directed play I have seen in a while. It is a refreshing change to see a play which is original and not ‘adopted’.  Co-Produced by Mohak Pajni and Adhiraj Sharma, the play is a typical “Indian Masala Comedy” which strong characterisation and a hilarious script. Adhiraj also plays the role of Roy and with equal aplomb as his direction. Shruti Kattar plays Ashima Khurana, the successful modern writer whose Punjabi roots sprout in tough situations. Kaavya Bector, in the role of Gauri Bharti Murli plays the control freak who likes to flaunt her “PhD” but was strangely married to Nikunj, played by Gaurav Amlani.  While every actor played their part perfectly, Gaurav just steals the show as a typical Punjabi with perfect comic timing, eloquent dialogue delivery and body language. The script uses just the right amount of Punjabiness and words to keep the audiences in splits throughout the play. Each character’s “statehood” is butt many jokes but by maintaining a fine balance the jokes do not enter the offensive and “have heard it before” category. Mohak Pajni enters the scene just before Act 2 and leads the second Act. I would rather not say who she plays except that she is the fifth guest. Her demeanor and actions scare everyone but she is doing it for a reason.

Photo Credit: Blue Phoenix Productions FB Page

This is a must watch play. The biggest strength of the play is the perfect  comic timing with a great script and direction which will make you laugh your ass off.  You can watch it on 23rd May at LTG Auditorium, New Delhi.

About the Play: 

Written and Directed by: Adhiraj Sharma

Gaurav Amlani: Nikunj
Shruti Khattar: Ashima Khurana
Kaavya Bector:
Gauri Bharti Murli
Mohak Pajni: Guest No. 5 (Watch to play to see what her role is)
Adhiraj Sharma:  Roy Chatterjee 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Play Review: Black Comedy by Old Cheese and The Chhota Haazri Theatre Company

I had just come back after spending a week at my native town and as soon as came back to Delhi, I saw in the newspaper a play being performed in the evening and immediately booked the tickets. I wasn’t too sure though what to expect as I had never seen any production by the team. I must say I had an amazing time and have not laughed so hard in a long time.

The play is adopted from one-act farce written by Peter Shaffer and was first performed in 1965. Farce are one of the best comedies or the worst if not executed well. Directors Raghav Puri and Roopali Singhal have done a brilliant job in keeping the pace of the story up, audiences in split throughout the play with charted out characters and situations.

The name of the play “Black Comedy” does not come from the theme. It does not poke fun at a dead person. The title is a pun for the reverse lighting condition used in the act.  What is this reverse lighting condition? The play is written to be staged under a reversed lighting scheme: the play opens on a darkened stage. A few minutes into the show there is a short circuit, and the stage is illuminated to reveal the characters in a "blackout." On the few occasions when matches, lighters, or torches are lit, the lights go dim.

Produced by Old Cheese and The Chhota Haazri Theatre Company the play is about the chain of events that follow when Aditya and Naina, an engaged couple, invite a millionaire to see Aditya’s artwork, and to impress him have stolen antiques from a neighbor Jai Juneja. Naina’s formidable father, Colonel Sethi is also expected. The lights fuse, and the arrival of several unexpected visitors effectively wrecks the evening. What happens next is a rib tickling comedy arising from dumbness of Naina, perpetual disdain of others by Colonel Sethi, confusion and discomfort of Aditya to the entire situation, weirdness of Ms Catherine Jacobs, bitchiness of Aditya’s ex-gf Samira and homo-cidal tendencies of Jai Juneja . Throw in the short stint by the electrician and we have an hour of pure clean comedy. It is hard to say what made the act so brilliant. Was it the script, the direction, the perfectly timed acting or on stage props and lighting? I think it’s a combination of all four. A brilliant stage performance is held by four pillars – script, acting, direction and props. All four pillars are equally strong in this one and even if one of them went weak, the play would be weak and shaky. Kabeer Ahmed has brilliantly pulled off the role of Colonel Sethi and sends the audience into a fit of laughter with his perfectly timed one-liners. He loves and at the same time loathes his own daughter Naina  played by very beautiful Vidushi Chadha who plays the role of a typical beauty without brains to the tee. Tanvika Parlikar as the over religious Ms Katherine Jacobs says very little but when she does open her mouth it is at the most inappropriate times. Dhruv Sirohi buys some sympathy for his character of Aditya Mehra though his own character is to blame for all that goes wrong during the night. Vishnu Sinha gives an over the top treatment to the gay character of Jai Juneja, the neighbor who has hots for Aditya. Sakhi Upadhayay as Samira would make you think about your ex and how an estranged ex can make a bad situation worse with just her mere presence.
It is a must watch for everyone and kudos to the entire team for such a brilliant performance. Looking forward to more productions from them.

Dhruv Sirohi - Aditya Mehra
Vidushi Chadha -  Naina

Tanvika Parlikar - Ms Katherine Jacobs
Kabeer Ahmed - Colonel Sethi
Vishnu Sinha- Jai Juneja 
Sakhi Upadhyaya - Samira 
Rishan Dhamija- Mr. Tomer

Produced By:

Directed by: Raghav Puri and Roopali Singhal