A nearly packed houses mark resounding comeback for Indian American community theater after a two-year hiatus.
Recently, after a hiatus of almost three years, Washington, DC, area Indian American theater organization Natya Bharati staged its latest production “Three Sisters,” written and co-directed by Suneeta Misra, produced by Adarsh Gupta and also co-directed by Arindam Ghosh.
The play was a resounding comeback for Indian American community theater after a gap brought upon by the pandemic and its two shows played to nearly packed houses with an audience hungry for live entertainment.
The script was inspired by an Anton Chekhov play of the same name and depicts an entertaining coming of age story of three sisters engulfed in the conflicts of values that emerged in post-colonial India. Living with their widowed mother and nanny, each sister is dealing with various conflicts with both social and personal implications. I do not want to divulge too much of the plot here but issues such as marriage, politics, life in the big city vs. small town, idealism, and old and new expectations for women in pre- vs. post-independence India characterize the proceedings.
Often times plays that seek to be a satire and project commentary on social issues end up being too preachy and verbose. However, “Three Sisters” does not fall into this trap, is very well paced and keeps the messages that it wants to depict more subliminal – showcasing the excellence of Misra’s understanding of how tell a story. She also keeps the tone light, which is welcomed. It is not necessary to always make something depressing or hard hitting to drive a point home. For audiences yearning for something both meaningful and entertaining, THREE SISTERS does well in both areas.
Another high point of the production was its wonderful performances. The leading triumvirate of Sonal Jagasia, Rakhi Bhatia, and Meenal Singh as the title characters put in captivating performances. Each of these performers brought in the different shades necessary for their characters displaying their distinct personalities, trials and tribulations with aplomb.
Sangeeta Agrawal, Meera Narsimhan, Sridhar Mirajkar and Rajeev Paul are well established actors in the theater, film and radio circuits and seeing their marvelous performances with their key characters was no surprise. It was wonderful to see all of them back in action on stage after a long hiatus. Shampa Basu portrayed the arrogance and power of Rukmini with engrossing intensity, while Vikas Ahuja lent pathos to his role as the idealistic Mr. Bose.
Archana Gupta, Nachiket Dharker, Amit Gurjar, Mahesh Joshi, and Abhijit Dasgupta brought the right energy to the production with their varied roles, in some cases playing multiple characters. Rohit Ray delighted audiences with his performance as the brother of the three sisters with his carefree character and relaxed stage presence, while Manisha Tiwari got the claps and cheers with her cabaret dance performances in the play.
None of these performances would have been what they are without good direction, and as it can be ascertained, the direction by Arindam Ghosh and Suneeta Misra was phenomenal. It is not easy to adapt and bring your own distinct flavor to an Anton Chekhov story, but kudos to this team to bringing the right “desi flavor” for the DC area Indian American audience.
A play’s success is not only dependent on its actors, writers or directors but also its technical team. The set design, lighting and other technical elements were managed well and I must congratulate the team for their hard work.
It must also be celebrated the amount of new faces and first time actors in the production. To see a younger generation interested in participating in theater, and that too with a “desi” touch, is heartening.
“Three Sisters” gets two thumbs up from me and if there are any more shows in the coming days, it is strongly recommended that audiences check this play out.