Thrice-Three Solo Performances by Indian Women

, three solo performances by Indian Women, presented by Pratidhwani, the Seattle South Asian performing arts group, opened this weekend at Taproot’s Isaac Studio with great performances, insightful playwriting and plenty of laughter especially for Priyanka Shetty’s The Elephant in the Room.

The Elephant in the Room

The Elephant in the Room, written and performed by Priyanka Shetty, an Indian former software engineeress turned Indian-American actor, was hilariously brilliant. The solo play takes place in Priyanka’s dressing room, in a theatre, as she is paralyzed by pre-show jitters. Her heavy-duty angst is magnified because her parents not only will be in the audience, but have flown from India just to see her perform!

Photo: Prayag Shah
Just to intensify her unease, the play is not inoffensive like Little Women but is her raunchy autobiographical play about her struggles to break free from the repressive family and social expectations in India, as well as the vicissitudes of breaking into the theatre world in the U.S. What she has to say about both is rather scathing to put it mildly.

The title The Elephant in the Room was actually a double entendre because it referred both to the expression, which originated in the US in the 1950’s but became popular in the 1980’s as a result of the 12 step recovery movement. It means a huge problem everyone perceives but about which it is taboo to talk. Also it refers to the Elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh, the patron of intellectuals, bankers, scribes and authors, and is traditionally worshipped before any major enterprise.

While Priyanka is having her anxiety attack a mysterious package arrives containing a set of Tarot cards. Although she is as scared of the Tarot cards as she is of performing in front of her parents, she reluctantly picks up the cards from time to time while deliberating whether to cancel the show.

Photo: Prayag Shah

Priyanka Shetty is multi-talented as an actress and writer as well as an astute observer of human behavior and cultural differences. She is also an expert mimic and changed from dialect to dialect with lightning speed. Her comic timing was like a Swiss watch and I couldn’t help but laugh the whole time.

I particularly enjoyed this play because my first after college job was teaching English as a Foreign Language in Yorkshire, England to female Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sikh and Indian immigrants, so her struggles to adjust herself to American English vs. the British/Indian English strongly resonated with me, as it will with anybody confronted with the dialectical differences between the variations of spoken English. Her shrewd observations of American and Seattle social behavior definitely made her a “ connoisseur of human folly”

Flow, Swim, Float!?

Aarti Tiwari’s Flow, Swim, Float was another showcase for a talented writer/performer who had superb comic timing, an amusing script that illustrated that the best humor starts with something tragic. An extremely talented actress Tiwari also had great facial expression which showed swift mood changes, and great comic timing. Like Priyanka, her mastery of several different dialects was right on the money.

Her character, one of these go-getter types in business, who is extremely proficient with social media and an expert schmoozer, seemed on top of her game in this social media obsessed world. But then like so many people, she realizes just how little actual human connection she has, even though, she is so connected online.

Photo: Prayag

Her sessions on the couch with her therapist were heart-achingly honest and spoke to the zeitgeist. How many of us have more connection online or through social media than with our neighbors or friends?

It was a great show with a lot of humor mixed with sadness, and was absolutely riveting.

A Labyrinth and its Myriad Mirages.

While sitting in the dark, an announcement came on stating “There is no logic in the Labyrinth.” I had no trouble believing that, after sitting for several minutes watching something which was not in the least bit coherent nor captured my attention. It seemed like a waste for a beautiful and talented actress.

Except for the Labyrinth, which was the first play and the shortest, I heartily recommend Thrice. The Elephant in the Room and Flow Swim and Float were well-written and skillfully performed. There is some lovely, soft pre-show music just to set the mood. Pratidhwani, I hope will produce more interesting, amusing shows like these.

Thrice. Three Solo Performances by Indian Women. Pratidhwani. Isaac Studio at Taproot Theatre, 204-85th St. Seattle 98103. Thu, Fri, Sat. Sept. 28, 29, 30 7:30 pm. Sun Oct. 1 2pm.


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