The battle between Eastern and Western traditions is being hashed in a must-see romantic comedy, capped with high drama, called “A Widow of No Importance “ which is playing at the aptly-named East West Players in Los Angeles through October 9, 2011
Playwright Shane Sakhrani and director Shaheen Vaaz unlock the fetters of long standing traditions through perfectly tuned slapstick comedy and memorable performances from a high energy cast including Lina Patel, Anjali Bhimani, Parvesh Cheena, Sunil Malhotra and Puja Mohindra.
Set in Breach Candy, the affluent locale of South Mumbai, India, Deepa Kirpalani, masterfully played by Patel, is a subjugated woman shackled by not only the societal conventions of Indian widowhood but by a crushing concern to marry and settle her beautiful and brassy daughter Tara Kirpalani played by Mohindra.
The plot thickens as Deepa’s nerdish neighbor Vinod Thadani, 20 years her junior and who is also her son Manoj’s best friend woos and inflames “Auntie’s” innermost desires as she embarks on a wanton journey filled with hilarious intrigue, revelations, and awakenings.
Parvesh Cheena, most recently known for his role as “Gupta” in NBC’sOutsourced plays a trio of brilliant caricatured roles, one being the befuddled and bamboozled Manoj Kirpalani who was invoked by likening Deepa to his own “mother on stage.” The other two roles of the rich momma’s boy Chirag and widower Sandeep are reminiscent of “recognizable characters at family reunions” Cheena quips.
Malhotra shines as Vinod whose star struck puppy love matures into something a wee bit more kinky yet deep for the widow of no importance. Traditions are bared as heart and soul are bared. Malhotra likens the traditional Indian family as its own “match.com” with challenges of “color politics” and socio-economic caste rifts. He champions the waves of changes within the Indian culture.
Bhimani plays the materialistic socialite who spins the matchmaker web further entrenching a comedy of errors as the unforgettable Lalitha.
Patel identified with the challenges of her complex role and manifested her family members such as her aunts and mother to morph into the role of Deepa who is torn between honoring the society and family vs. honoring her own needs for liberation.
The action is rarely slow and reaches mad cap proportions by the finale but ironically retains an innocent essence of faith and magic exemplified in Vinod’s starry optimism.
The ending leaves the audience begging for more as revealed in an engaging follow-up Q&A session with the cast and crew led by Thai-American playwright Prince Gomolvilas. Audience members praised the play and asked whether sequels would be considered.
Betty Wakmatsu a theater season ticket holder thoroughly enjoyed the performance and reflected on her own Japanese roots and the similar tradition between the two cultures.
As to the potential critics of the play Sakhrani muses that he is probably being “burned in effigy” and realizes that such a play would not stand a chance for a showing in India. Critical to Sakhrani’s intent is the finale which underwent numerous revisions as he settled to retain Deepa’s fortitude against all odds.
A Widow of No Importance is theater as it should be; a play composed of a great and defiant story line, a beautiful set, quality acting and unforgettable wit which loops you into a zany roller coaster ride as you are forced to bid a hearty goodbye to the binding traditions of yesteryear.
The play is presented in conjunction with the South Asian Network and the USC School of Theatre and is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, California Community Foundation, the Shubert Foundation, the LA County Board of Supervisors through the LA County Arts Commission, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the James Irvine Foundation and Bank of America.
“A Widow of No Importance” officially opened Sept. 14 and will run through Oct. 9 in the David Henry Hwang Theater at 120 Judge John Aiso St. Los Angeles.
Performances are Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
General admission tickets range from $26 to $36. For ticket purchases or more information, please call East West Players at (213) 625-7000 or visit www.eastwestplayers.org.