Plays: This Year’s Performances

Taconic Parkway

An English play, written by Sudipta Bhawmik, directed by Manoj Tiwari, performed by Natyabharati, Washington DC

Set in the backdrop of the beautiful, mysterious and thrilling Taconic Parkway in New York, this intriguing psychological drama explores the fine line between reality and fantasy and the circumstances that push that line, time and again. The seemingly routine life of an Indian-American couple turns astray when a visitor, a well-known movie star from Bengal, India, arrives in their midst. As the play unfolds, deep, dark secrets from the past are unraveled layer by layer, leaving the audience in shock and wonder.

Women of Modern Civilization

A play in English and Urdu, written, directed and performed by Bina Sharif, Pakistani-American playwright and performer, NY

It is a compilation of monologues by 5 women from all over the world, bringing in the different perspectives of women in today’s world.The first one is about the late Prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, whose untimely death shocked the nation and who fought for democracy all her life. The second character works for a very low wage in the Western world and is highly educated and outspoken and is truthful about her opinions and things that are important today in the world like, injustice and war. The third character is a maid from the Philippines, working in Dubai for a rich family who is very abusive and makes her work beyond normal hours. The fourth character migrated from Pakistan to the West. She speaks Urdu and Punjabi and misses her culture and language, which no one understands. The fifth character is a poet who recites poems and sings songs in Urdu about the loss of her culture over time.

Talk of our Town

A theater collage on issues faced by women in the South Asian diaspora. Written and directed by Sharmila Pinki Ghoshal, choreography by Sunrita Mitra, NJ

Talk of our Town, is the general title of a play which includes several stories of the trials and tribulations of the women of South Asian diaspora.The play focuses on the various adversities that the South Asian women have to go through after coming to the country of their dreams. It is a multilingual, multi dialectal, and multi generational play.

It talks about issues on women’s rights, empowerment, abuse, fear, sense of isolation and gender inequality. A play which starts out with a sense of chaos, mayhem, and desolation ultimately ends with women identifying their strength and walking toward the path of hope. The play has a wonderful array of music representing various regions of South Asia and also boasts of exceptionally well-choreographed dances which sets the tone and heightens the theatrical element, resulting in the positive identification of the problems of each community.

Ji Jaisi Aapki Marzi

A Hindi play, written by Nadira Babbar, directed by Ashok Vanjari, and performed by Theatrix, NJ

Women have taken many strides in their careers, socially, politically, intellectually, but all over the world they have been subject to oppression. Although their male counterparts respect their courage, strength and intelligence, to an extent, women continue to be exploited emotionally, sexually, and psychologically. Modernization has only changed the nature of exploitation.

It is imperative that the deep anguish, the inner voice of women be heard. The play depicts the treatment meted out by society to women, and breaks the silence that has been imposed upon them.

Teen Poyshar Pala

A Bengali adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s Three Penny Opera, adapted by Ajitesh Bandopadhyay, directed by Indian director/actor Abhik Chatterjee, performed by Epic Actors’ Workshop

One of theater’s most influential critics, Brooks Atkinson noted, the Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper) “turns the accepted values of the good life upside down.” That is, in essence, what the Threepenny Opera, written by poet-playwright Bertolt Brecht and composed by Kurt Weill in 1928 is emblematic of. The play was originally written by John Gay in 1728 as The Beggars’ Opera—a satirical ballad opera in England and had the longest run in theater history at that time. Threepenny Opera was considered a milestone of 20th century musical theater and in a brilliant Bengali adaptation by one of India’s theater legends, Ajitesh Banerjee, Teen Poyshar Pala was staged in 1969 in Kolkata, India to packed houses in hundreds of shows and unfolded through satire the socio-political perspective of Bengal under the British rule during Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838. Till date, the Threepenny Opera is revisited time and time again and continues to be staged regularly in various parts of the world. Such is its appeal and feel of contemporaneity. It is a tale of how a businessman (Jatin Pal) and his wife (Malatimala) running a business with beggars devise a plan to capture and imprison a dacoit (Mahindranath) with the help of a prostitute and an ex-lover (Jyotsna) of the dacoit’s because the dacoit had married the businessman’s daughter (Polu). While the dacoit always goes free because of his quid-pro-quo relationship with the police chief (Batokrishna), this time the chief is in a tough spot as Jain Pal threatens to ruin his reputation that may ultimately cost him his job. The play brings into question accepted standards of moral values and behavior, critiques the mercenariness of the capitalist system, the inhuman nature of humans. Ajitesh Banerjee adeptly employs Brecht’s well-known device of creating the “alienation effect” where the audience is distanced from the characters and the narrative of the play and is able to think critically and analytically about the situation. Through biting satire and vivacious music, Teen Poyshar Pala will attempt to provide a complete theater experience for audiences in the South Asian community.

Bibisaab

A Bengali play, written by Abdullah Al Mamun, directed by Bangladeshi actor/director Jamaluddin Hossain, and performed by AASTHA, NJ

Bibi Saab is a play about the War of Liberation in Bangladesh and its aftermath. The play was written in the late 1980s in the street-theater format by the late Abdullah Al Mamoon, the legendary playwright of Bangladesh. It was later developed for the proscenium stage and was first presented as a regular production in 1994 under the direction of Jamaluddin Hussain. It was an instant success and was immediately acclaimed as one of Abdullah Al Mamoon’s finest works.

The protagonist Bibisaab is an aged woman who lives a struggling life by running a rickshaw garage in the old part of Dhaka city. She has lost her two sons and husband during the War of Liberation, and has decided to face the challenges of life alone. She is feared and respected by the rickshaw drivers, who rent their vehicles from her garage on a daily basis, as well as the common people who live in the slums around her garage.

Basiruddin Molla was a collaborator with the Pakistan Army during the War of Liberation in 1971. He was responsible for killing Bangalis, who supported the Freedom Fighters. He is now a very rich and powerful person. He wants to demolish the rickshaw garage of Bibisaab to improve the outside view of his new mansion. His son, who is a local goon, tries to seduce young women living in the surrounding slums.A confrontation develops inevitably. The Municipal Ward Member, who was once a freedom fighter, but now a selfish local politician and a friend of BasiruddinMolla’s, tries to appease both sides and calm down the explosive situation. But the inevitable happens.