Chaos Theory is being touted as “a witty, fast paced, avant-garde romp, full of intellectual shenanigans,” but beyond that, playwright Anuvab Pal added, “This story is about the freedom of ideas and what that means in the lives of these two [people]. So I’m hoping that [the] more cerebral side of the story connects. Oh, and love. I am hoping that tech visionaries and start-up billionaires have, at some point, white taking a two minute break from work, fallen in love. Or had heart break. Either of that is good enough to relate.”
In its most basic premise, Chaos Theory is a love story about two Indian professors—Sunita, a die-hard Columbia gal (think Kate Winslet meets Sharmila Tagore) and Mukesh, a Harvard guy (think Naseerudin Shah meets Jeremy Irons). But “Within Chaos Theory,” Pal explained, “there is a theorem of a Lorenz Attractor. It suggests that two particles A and B can circle each other into eternity and never connect. I wanted to apply that to a love story and made A and B my two professors.” And so it plays out, that after having met on the first day of college, Sunita and Mukesh desperately fall in love with each other for most of their lives but emotionally struggle to admit and submit to their love. “It’s a beautiful premise and written very beautifully,” stated Vinita Belani, EnActe’s Founder and Artistic Director who also plays the lead role of Sunita.
“[Vinita] read the play a couple of years and I think connected with Sunita because Sunita has a similar journey. I didn’t know Vinita then but I probably had someone in mind like that when I wrote it,” stated Pal, who is also an Indian stand up comedian, screenwriter, and novelist who was listed by Times Of India as one of India’s top 5 comedians. He also co-wrote the 2007 cult hit Indian comedy, Loins of Punjab Presents.
In addition to the show’s exemplary performances, Chaos Theory audiences will be introduced to the minimalist yet avant-garde set, showcasing stage furniture constructed out of discarded books and the innovative use of projection set design. Projection design integrates digital media into live theater performances.
Projectionist expert David Murakami is also an award winning film director and writer. He stated, “The best use of projection is to establish place; it sets the stage.” He has designed experimental set pieces ranging from the classic works of Henrick Ibsen and Ray Bradbury to the contemporary productions of Luis Valdez (considered to be the “Father of Chicano Theater”). Murakami added, “As a projection designer, I don’t [necessarily] see myself as a champion of the new, my role is to use new technology and find a way to feature the soul of live theater. EnActe is a company that is very receptive to new technology but also appreciates the soul of performance.”
Though its operations are centralized in the Bay Area, EnActe Arts is an international theater company that aims to bring South Asian stories to its audiences and to provide a platform for nurturing performing arts talent. Three years ago, Belani transitioned from a fulfilling career in the tech corporate world to doing theater full-time and founded EnActe Arts. Its goals go beyond fostering talent; EnActe believes that a theater that provides opportunities for self-expression can “build ties not only within [one’s] own community but with others in faraway lands who share [one’s] passion.” Belani’s mission is to produce contemporary theatrical projects that explore the place of South Asian culture in the world.
Belani believes in developing talent within the South Asian community and that an ethnic minority must be given a platform because the opportunities within the mainstream can be restrictive. “One of EnActe’s primary goals,” she added, “is to push talented playwrights, set designers, directors, and actors, and allow them to reach a higher level toward professionalism.”
There are three divisions within EnActe Arts: a Playwright Program (commencing next year), Theater Education (classes for children, young adults, and seniors, in partnership with ICC), and Theater for a Cause (raises funds for charitable organizations).This year’s Theater for a Cause recipient is Maitri, a non-profit Bay Area organization that helps survivors of domestic abuse. It primarily helps families from South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka among others) facing domestic violence, emotional abuse, cultural alienation, human trafficking or family conflict by providing outreach services such as a helpline, transitional housing, legal advocacy, as well as awareness and prevention programs. EnActe is donating all of the profits from Friday’s Opening Night show (as well as $5 per ticket from all subsequent shows) to Maitri.
Come for the cause and come to be transported to the ‘60s, when fashionable movies play at art deco cinemas, Nehruvian poshness is stylish, and the Beatles are all the rage, and experience an India that is not so much an exotic place, but a real place no different than everyday America with its urban struggles. Chaos Theory will explore how similar we all are, no matter where we were born.
Oct. 9, 8 p.m.; Oct. 10, 2 & 6 p.m.; Oct. 11, 2 p.m. Cubberley Community Center, 4000 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto. General $25, $35 VIP. www.enacte.org.