Ash is a well-dressed sexual predator in Greater Than, a Bay Area Drama (BAD) Company production written and directed by Basab Pradhan, founder and co-director of BAD Company. Sindu Singh plays Roma Kapoor with panache as a woman in a man’s world. The more disturbing character was of Ash, played by Brian Levi, a smooth General Partner at a Venture Capital (VC) firm who believes that his wealth and power can help him score with women he meets at work.
How do villains justify their actions? What’s the internal monologue of the sexual predator? To our distress, Ash has managed to convince himself that he is entitled to a fair trade — sex in return for venture funding. Much like Humbert in Lolita, Vladimir Nabakov might have described Ash as a “vain and cruel wretch’ and “a hateful person.”
A great deal has been written about the bro culture in tech. Films like The Social Network (2010) and television serials like Silicon Valley (2014 – ) have looked deeper and even lampooned the excesses. In the play, Sumitra, played by Rita Bhatia, confides to her sister that male executives at work were systematically paid more. And often stared at her breasts. Sound familiar? In the pilot of TV serial Silicon Valley, a sexist programmer directs users to women with erect nipples through an app called NipAlert. Too far-fetched to be true? Even before the episode was aired, Titstare, “an app where you take photos of yourself staring at tits” was released. Sigh.
An article in New Yorker alludes to this lack of women in Silicon Valley: “The show’s signature gag was set at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, a real event where founders take turns pitching their ideas. After the scene aired, viewers complained about the lack of diversity in the audience. Berg recalled, “A friend of mine who works in tech called me and said, ‘Why aren’t there any women? That’s bullshit!’ I said to her, ‘It is bullshit! Unfortunately, we shot that audience footage at the actual TechCrunch Disrupt.” Double sigh.
“#MeToo is the greatest cultural shift in a generation, Let’s hope it sticks” asserts Basab Pradhan. This insightful play feels topical and in step with shifting attitudes on gender politics. Some of the references to the VC world were a bit too arcane for me, but it was easy to appreciate the insider knowledge of Pradhan’s work. The play was staged in Sunnyvale theater, dare I say in the bosom of Silicon Valley. I thought of Silicon Valley the TV serial, where an established tech oligarch is challenged by smaller disruptive entrepreneurs. I recalled that Basab Pradhan had acted in plays in larger theater groups before he struck out to co-found BAD company with Sindu Singh.
How Silicon Valley.
Geetika Pathania Jain is Culture and Media Editor at India Currents.
Cover photo: (L to R) Sarah Williams (Jennifer), Sindu Singh (Roma) and Brian Levi (Ash).
Roma: Sindu Singh
Ash: Brian Levi
Jennifer: Sarah Williams
Jeremy: Paul Costello
Sumitra: Rita Bhatia
Greg: Ed Keyani
Writer-Director – Basab Pradhan
Stage Manager – Michelle Marko
WHAT: Greater Than is a new play about sexual harassment in the heart of Silicon Valley.
WHEN: Nov. 29 to Dec. 8. Eight shows. Preview night Nov. 29, 8pm. Opening night Nov. 30, 8pm.
WHERE: Sunnyvale Theater, 550 E Remington Dr, Sunnyvale, CA 94087.
TICKETS: $26 to $48.INFO: For tickets and details, go to bayareadrama.company or call 408-458-9375.
The theater is wheelchair-accessible, and free parking is available.