Checkoff Night – ‘Shiv’ at Boston Court [Sorry, The Theatre @ Boston Court]

27 July 2015 Update:
The Marketing & Communications Department at Boston Court Performing Arts Center wishes to state that the company presenting ‘Shiv’ is ‘The Theatre @ Boston Court’ and not ‘The Boston Court.’   Duly noted and corrected below.


‘Shiv’ now at The Boston Court The Theatre @ Boston Court achieves little as a play but does shed some unflattering light on what it takes to get on the stage in the first place. This ‘post colonial fantasy’s one success is in asking who decides what stories get told. It is a good question, deserving far more capable hands than the author or the production team. The actual play is a mishmash of flashbacks and flashforwards as immigrant Shivaratri Kumar navigates, often literally, a new life in Skokie following a brief childhood in Punjab. Her father, a successful modernist poet in his homeland, is having rather more difficulties getting his work noticed and published in the U.S. causing him to spiral into booze and blondes. Unseen mummy works hard in a convenience store. Because, of course, that’s what Indians do when they come to America. Shiv the girl loves her Dad. Shiv the teen is disturbed by his decline and departure. Shiv the adult wrangles a job at the estate of the publisher who crushed Dad’s dreams. Why? Who knows but it is all poetic, metaphysical, and richly human. The website tells me so and therefore it must be true. There’s a tie-in to Shiva the deity but regrettably I left my microscope at home.

It is a tough slog for the actors under Emilie Beck’s inept direction on a static, low-budget set replete with cheesy effects. Dileep Rao stands out in a thankless role as Dad, ratcheting the Indian accent up and down on demand and gradually slouching under progressive disappointment. The rest do what they can with what they’re given culminating in Shiv (Monika Jolly) casting off her ties to the past thanks to Ghost Dad and heading off into who knows, or who cares, what. Eighty minutes feel substantially longer no thanks to soggy dialogue, inane Star Trek references, and a tepid almost-romance between immigrant woman and plot device.

But does Boston Court The Theatre @ Boston Court ever get to checkoff a lot of boxes with this slick and utterly cynical piece of schedule billiards: Age, gender, immigrant experience, the Indian diaspora (whatever the hell that is), and colonial hegemony brought up in one swell foop. James Watt’s record has been tied after all these years. There’s also a lot of pointless talking, just like Chekhov. The answer to who gets to choose the stories and what they really think is in the theatre’s men’s room where a poem by an Indian poet hangs over each urinal. When asked if this was at all appropriate, the theatre’s Executive Director said he hadn’t thought of it and could definitely see the point. Swell. Snippets from emerging authors on the toilet tissues are probably next. This artistic choice, and make no mistake, it is one, assuredly won’t be mentioned in the grant proposals and beg letters but the rest will. There are two unpleasant possibilities in all of this. Either ‘Shiv’ represents the best that writers of Indian descent can put forward or this is the kind of pandering bilge they have to write to get the attention of the fat, lazy, but always-smiling hypocrites at the helm of new play development – beady, bulgy eyes fixed on the next Foundation score.

This steaming load of codswallop is at Boston Court The Theatre @ Boston Court until 9th August. Google it if you want more information.

And now, classics from The National Lampoon – the first which should be Boston Court’s The Theatre @ Boston Court’s Theme Song and the second which does something with the immigrant topic.

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