Harvest

Harvest is a play written by Manjula Padmanabhan focussing geographically on Mumbai, India. We see the character Om, signing up as a organ donor for Ginni who is an American woman simply because there is no more jobs in India. Ginni pays him to lead and live a healthy life, so when it is time for doning an organ, there is no difficulty or problem in doing so. This play feels nice in the beginning because it seems as after signing up as organ donor, leading a happy and healthy life is guranteed and certained, but what lies underneath is when Om and his small family starts to enjoy their new lifestyles, they also start to deny the consequences.

This play reminds me to Brothel #9 mainly because it is takes place in India, although this time it is Mumbai and not Calcutta. This play also has a prostitute and revolves around poor finanical situations resorting to doing very unfortunate jobs to keep their funds up. We see the family go through wonderful meals which can seem as space age because the family is taking off at the beginning of the play with good promise. But as the play furthers itself, we see the promise becoming dark and uneasy.

By seeing the financial situations of Om and his wife Jaya, we can appreciate money as a neccessity to life. In this play, we see Om pretty much selling his life in order to obtain the top dollar for this family, well at least in India it was considered top dollar. Jaya was evidently distressed about Om’s decision on signing himself to Ginni, because the family is already on an off and on troubled relationship because Jaya is having a secret realtionship with Om’s younger brother Jeetu. Jeetu works as the prositute mentioned earlier, Ma is Om’s mother who also lives in the house who favors Om more so then the others.

Work itself is not even hard either. For the family, Ginni operates their services by dictating to Interplanta, which is the company that supplies them with food and services such as a toilet and shower that Om and his family received as newly rich people. This obviously made a foreshadow of his death. Personally, I wanted to just skip right to the point where Om was going to die because it was so clear that if he wasn’t going to die…then this play would be more interesting. I believe that this simplicity had been effective because it relates to this week’s theme of ‘problem with food.’

Om’s new life with his family often surrounded around the luxery of food and the shelter with services they are not used to. The problem with this, is that we as people simply take food and shelter for granted. I do not remember how many numerous times I have complained about how hungry I am or if my sister had used all the hot water in the shower, but as another dystopian play, Harvest showcases the morality and ethical views of our society in my opinion. As a result, Om’s carelessness left his family in turmoil. But…but but but…the tables had turned when Jeetu has gotten sick. This is the point where I was like..wait wait..hold on…oh shit, so that means Om is probably going to donate his organs to Jeetu but he can’t because he had signed to Ginni. We see Jeetu been taking away from the picture as well as the Donor and Jaya is left alone to fend for herself.

In the end, it is evident that the body serves as the major theme. Manjula did a great job on portraying the body’s importance to our society as well as in this play. What I believe was effective is how easy Om was able to sign to Ginni because it shows how uncaring and what his body means to him, in order to get the riches. Kinda makes sense now why the title is Harvest, because our body is like food, we can harvest it whenever in cases we need it as Ginni had portrayed it in this play.

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Grasses of a Thousand Colors

Grasses of a Thousand Colors is a recent play written by Wallace Shawn. The themes of this play centers it self on the ”problem of food” and projects itself in a dystopian manner. In Grasses of a Thousand Colors we see four characters, we see the memoirist (Ben) and three women who he had numerous sexual encounters with. This play is quite confusing when reading through for the first time. Personally, I think that there were multiple themes to this play which were hard to narrow down. A pornographic text, dystopian and morall values are just some of the themes that are coagulated when trying to analyse. Before reading this I knew by reading from the recent posts that it had to do with the ‘problem of food’ and this play would have a relation to it.

This relation is seen when the cat is introduced in the play. Now this is where the theme of sex is injected into this play. We see the bestial notions of our memorist in the play towards the feline creature. As a doctor, we see him in a more controlled state then just a man who is getting the sack from several women. As a result, we see him as a lucky man and not a pervert. What I find interesting in this play, is the amount of sex and self indulgence that go together. Not much ‘hating’ was present in the play towards the self indulgence. In my opinion, the doctor was a p.i.m.p. Not only we see him as a adolesence having obsessed with his penis, but he gets ALL the women in bed! This play explored a range of potentials which made it very fulfilling with imagery and metaphors.

To elaborate, there were several imagery injections that were made within the play that did not hold back the explicitness. “The piss in the navel,” or the “genital bantering” and how about the how ”children and parents are to have intercourse.” Now, I don’t see anything NOT weird about these metaphors. From the past plays I’ve read such as Table Talk or blood.claat, they seem to be very explicit regarding to the body. However, Wallace Shawn takes this to a new level where it involves much of himself to the play which makes ME question…why isn’t he in jail?

Moving away from the theme of sex, I also see morality because as a dystopian play, Grasses of a Thousand Colors makes us view our own society. This is true because when all the dirty metaphors and imagery had toned down a little, I thought about how explicit this play is, relating to how explicit the media is to sex crimes we are used to seeing on television. In a literary sense, dytopian theatre is a degradation version of society, and when reading this play, I can see how our society has degraded itself from a previous version. We see more crimes revolving around sexual activies more so then others. Maybe perhaps i’m wrong, or it just seems that the media displays more sexual thoughts in our minds than other crimes. So I thought about the morality between the two. If I thought it was kind of pimp to see Ben get laid with the three women and a cat. What is this? This would be considered alright, but in our lives…would not. So, in this respect, morality plays a big role because it gives me as a citizen to look a little more closely on how concepts are being displayed to us.

In the end, I believe that this play was about…sex, morality, and explicitness putting together on a vehicle intertwining together to fight back against our own little dirty thoughts that we have at the back of our heads. Everyone has them but are afraid to admit them outloud. This play explores what would happen if we did. In my opinion, after putting this book down…I was like huh? wha wha wha…man…seriously…okay… and that was about it. I would like see this play live on stage to see how it would be played out. With all the explicitness I had read, it would be very interesting to see how it is played out.

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Brothel # 9

 

The play Brothel #9 written by Anusree Roy makes its first debut at the Factory Theatre. The play centres around the life of Rekha (Pamela Sinha), a girl who lives on the outskirts of Calcutta. She had been arranged and instructed by her brother in law to work at factory making light bulbs. When she arrives at this so called “factory” she finds herself in turmoil when she discovers that it is in actuality, a brothel. In fact, she had been sold to this brothel in order to work as a prostitute for the pimp daddy who goes by the name Birbal (Ash Knight).

In the brothel, we see Jamuna who is also a prostitute in the play. What is interesting about Jamuna is she takes on a mother type figure to all the characters. She has been operating at this brothel for countless years and is very good at her job. When Rekha meets her, she is told numerous times “Once you get in here, you can’t get out.” This is the threat made to her at the beginning of the play when Rekha is first introduced. We find out that Rekha is a virgin whose life turned around once she had her first customer, Salaudin (Sanjay Talwar). Rekha is the name of a famous celebrity singer, named after her is the prostitute in the play. She looks up to her as an idol. Many references were made to her by Jamuna in hopes of selling Rekha the dreams of becoming a singer like she had but only if she did well at the brothel.  As the play unfolds, Rekha comes to realization that her dreams of a city girl were not coming true. She then twists the plot by trying to find ways to escape the brothel but meets her resistance by the end of Act I with Salaudin.

Director Shawn Nigel Williams should feel accomplished of this play. Every scene in the play sold with flying colours. There is a specific scene when Rekha is first seen with her customer Salaudin for the very first time and they both perform an explicit scene where the audience is engaged intensively evoking many emotional responses. This  is not one of those plays where you need to see the visuals to see what the story entailed. What is great about Nigel Williams is he uses the dynamics of imagery and the acting to create impulsive responses.  One could say that the scene, when Salaudin took Rekha and explicitly rapes her in the brothel room taking away her innocence and virginity. This is performed behind the curtain and all you hear is the sounds and voices of the actors which not only keeping it visually sensitive but simultaneously delivers the scene.

The acting was crisp and enough to satisfy audience members to what is going on in the scene. Nigel had directed scenes in which blended very well together and had expressed many emotional ranges. During many conversations, the dialogue was kept at a lengthy medium which was great telling both the story and the historical aspects of the culture. Jamuna and Birbal both played the over seers of the brothel very well. They are both the antagonists in this play, however they are not villains. Birbal plays a son like role to Jamuna which evolved the play to a more personal level.

Salaudin and Rekha who take on a relationship type of role that utterly goes through much turmoil and disputes. It is evident that Salaudin had feelings for Rekha and likewise. Although Salaudin had his own family, we could see that Salaudin wanted to drive himself away from them to Rekha. What is unique about Rekha is she does not take on the typical resistance approach to her character but decides to accept her position over time. The interesting attribute about this couple is that they further the plot in a way where they equally share the protagonist’s role. In doing so, it was effective to show that Salaudin is simply not just another customer to Rekha but something more.

The set design by Shawn Kerwin is very colourful and appropriate. The set displayed many rooms and the walls with different shades of red, yellow and orange. The brothel not only takes on as a serious work place but transports the audience effectively on a journey to Calcutta. What is difficult about the design if I had to pinpoint is how to incorporate a working atmosphere and simultaneously illustrating a place of pain, prison and captivity. The lighting design by Bonnie Beecher definitely helped the set out by highlighting the scenes when moods of darkness and grief took place on stage. This play was very beautiful to look at portraying many messages of morality and value of history.

The play Brothel #9 can still be seen now and runs from March the 3rd to 27 at Factory Theatre of 2011.

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The Laramie Project

This play explored many ethical and societal issues during this time. What was captivating was that the play took on a documentary style where it was interviews of residents who lived in Laramie, Wyoming. Laramie of which interestingly enough for me, played a significant role. Laramie took on a character role instead of a place because of the multiple references to it as it was a person. Let us look closely on how the Tectonic Theatre group used Laramie as a way of depicting characters based on the fact they lived there, but as a whole.

This play was disturbing in a sense where it reminded me of a horror film, a true incident where as the place is not haunted or remembered for what it was. In fact, all of this is true as I found out this play was remade to a documentary style film which premiered in theaters just in 2009. Tectonic Theatre group most known for the Laramie project examines on the aftermath of the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay highschool kid who was murdered on the outskirts and left pinned on a fence outside to die.

I was actually able to see some parts of the movie online.  Personally, I had a lot more kick out of the film then the play itself. With the film, since it was so recent, you can tell that even with the actors themselves playing the roles, they were somewhat in shock with what had happened ten years ago to Matthew Shepard. The play opens up with “Moments” often appearing within the text. This often appeared in the play worked for me because it suggested that within this documentary style play it informed ME as the reader that it in fact a documentary. Every “moment” would take on another “moment” in the history of Laramie. Each would indicate the new character saying their dialogue in the text. The Tectonic Theatre group is known for making plays based on real actual live events, and the Laramie Project was no different.

There were several characters in this play that troubled me. For instance, Matthew’s father Dennis Shepard, in his monologue he would tell how great his son was to him, but at the same time agree with Laramie the fact that he is gay and questions his lifestyle of “if he had lead a great lifestyle” suggesting maybe this could have been prevented if he was not gay. This pissed me off because why the hell would it matter to the father. You would assume that the father would be so greatly hurt because his FIRST born son had died, but to try to defend Laramie by saying that maybe he kind of did deserve it because he was gay? This was appalling, and not right. What is interesting about some of the characters is that some of them showed much similarity to Dennis, where they commented on the fact he was gay and talked about it as if mattered, AFTER DEATH.

The reason why he was murdered was indeed because he was gay. But talking about the fact he was gay did not help the grief. Not only did it make it worse, but it makes us potential readers think about our society as heterosexual people but to really criticize how we look at others. It is when he died that the father wanted every one in town to unite where as it could have been done long time ago.

Relating back to class, since we were on the era where the GAYS, QUEERS, FAGS were not accepted, I actually thought before reading this play that this would be the transition to the healing process of what has already happened. But what Laramie did as a society was not only make them look worse as a town, but contribute to how they feel upon homosexuals after Matthew had died. We see how Jedidiah talked about Laramie, “its hard to talk about Laramie, the town has changed.” I laughed at this comment because, well for one…DUH, and two, you wait until a boy has died, then you think about the Gays life. This play was an emotional response to me because when it revolves around people voicing their opinions about a certain topic such as death, it does not matter if he was Gay and how he lead his lifestyle. It is the opinions and interviews that I had read that contributed to the death and the continuous opposition to the boy’s lifestyle such as the parents that were immoral. A hate crime is a hate crime, Matthew was beaten because he was Gay, he was described solely a Queer, Fag. Tectonic Theatre had reproduced this event that was something unfortunate as a message that can be brought against the world, changing it, and making it better as a whole. The film was then made a successful film after and was a great hit.

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Judith Thompson’s “Palace of the End” …no really The End.

First off, I was usually surprised that this play because it was composed mainly of three monologues. A little off tangent thing about me is monlogues, I love them because it shows depth, perception, and the purpose of the actor telling their own story. However, I am usually satisfied with monologues because they usually appear once either in the beginning, middle or end of the play. That pretty much bakes the cake for me. Judith Thompson’s Palace of the End is an exception to what usually intrigues me. Let us start shall we?

What makes this play different, is the fact there is infact very long monologues which make up the entire play. What is interesting is it seems like it is not a play at all. To me at least, I read it like a chapter book. As each character told their story, it was like going into different chapters of the book unravelling the mysteries and purpose of their life. However in this play, this was based on real people. A soldier who is imprisoned at a prison camp for her mis conduct at a prison in Iraq, a weapons inspector who exposes false information about war and a mother who is in a political opposition to Saddam Hussein.

The first character to speak her story was Lynddie England. I found her very unsympathetic and very boring. She was a tough character to really understand because of the obnoxious attitude and the big determination to be THE SPOTLIGHT, or so in my perspective. What is worse about this is that it does not engage me in any positive way. I do not know her purpose in this play personally, but i read it anyway, who knows, maybe it is linear and hopefully picks up when the next two characters speak.

David Kelly was up next. He was a British scientist who had either been murdered or suicided. In this case, I assumed that he suicided. Why? Because he often referenced and questioned the audience and himself on if he would ACTUALLY allow himself to suicide, or allow someone to murder him. It is an extradinary monologue because it completely contrasts Englands monologue in ways where we forget about her, but still acknowledge her voice as the introduction to the play. Kelly’s words were more sympathetic opposed to England. It was kind of sad how Kelly’s character was very mysterious because we would like to get to know more about him.

Al Saffarh is the mother in opposition to Saddam Hussein. She outlines her political and social perspectives towards Saddams ruling of the family. What constitute this play is that, even though this last monologue to me was very predictable, it worked. I read it as a rant, a very long rant, complaint to life as if it was going to be heard and solved. But because I was thinking about the rant, acknowledging, it became successful. This tied all three characters together because although they all share different stories, it proposed a linear type of connection to the play. Many may disagree with me here but, in actuality, it worked for me because the mother’s monologue illustrated the other two characters story with her own, by only speaking about her own. I don’t know if that last sentence made sense, but it does to me. What is interesting about this play is that it is three individuals who are affected by the destruction of war in Iraq, yet they are all contrasted and similar in a sense.

Thompson did a great job in manifesting what we percieve as engaging and moving. As a text, not only was I able to read the whole play, but it had a gradual build up sort of like a film where you can’t really take your eyes off of. The three individuals connected to me sort of like a private carrel in a church. Each character assimilated into me. This play worked together as a whole, but separately, I cannot tell if it would be strong enough. It is like a tripod, if one of the legs break or fall off, the entire play is gone…or should i say “end”.

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Angels In America

Angels in America is a successful play written by Tony Kushner in 1989. What is more interesting is that it is one of those rare successful “plays turn-into-film” type of play. Tony Kushner focuses this play on themes of politics, religion and he makes several references in the play towards Christanity, Judaism and Mormonism. I do not have much expertise in the field of religion but as a theatre major, the symbolism and experience I had from reading the play, I can make of why this play was successful.

The first question that was evoked by reading this play is if the AIDS commentary was necessary. Ideally, I believe that Tony wanted to step away from the stereotypical remarks such as “fag” or “gay” that categorize homosexuality commonly used as comedic relief. Implementing the AIDS factor and having been told to Louis that Prior has been contracted with AIDS makes for more plot. Louis reaction to this was not amusing at all. This worked perfectly because it made the audience’s meaning-experience to more serious tone. This was the result of influences from Brecht’s ‘take home experience’ epic theatre.

Secondly, is it just me or is sex not a serious issue in this play. Louis seeks out anonymous sex at night at a park, while his lover is contracted with AIDS. With all seriousness aside, perhaps this was to provide comedic relief when each character had their own separate moments in some scenes. What bothers me about this homosexuality theme in this play is that this makes love overated. Is getting sex more important than staying at your lover’s bed side? If this is one of the techniques that Tony used to evoke responses from audience members, than it sure worked on me!

Another theme in Angels in America is identity. This theme is evoked from both parts of the play where I believe community/togetherness/universe (take your pick) is significant. Hannah, as a mormon accepts Prior as a gay man where normally mormon’s do not. Even having the AIDS infection can be seen as a symbol of identity. As we learned that back in this era, AIDS can only be contracted by the homosexuals. This suggests that there is some rebirth or revolution of what the past has percieved as ‘the wrong’ or ‘sins’ such as in christianity about gays. Again, I do not have much experience in religion but what I can make of this is a community breaking down and reborn again.

It can be simplified that Tony’s main message to seek out how far this play can reach in the community and how much of it can be embraced. Angels in America is a multi-themed play which some can reflect more than others. This is exactly what Tony wanted to evoke out of audience members. Themes of religion, politics, identity and homosexuality can all be applied to certain person(s) or none at all. What is important here is that we see what has been served in America in the past, should be recreated and reborn into a new world. This one of which accepts all communities.

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