Originally, I wasn’t going to write anything on Why Not Theatre’s A Brimful of Asha, because it only ran three days in Calgary and I saw it on the second night of its run. I’m doing this more personal review, mostly because I have three critics who really want to know what I think and I wanted to jot down my thoughts.
Why Not Theatre sets the tone of the evening by giving everyone in the audience samosas. They were pretty tasty. Ravi runs around the theatre, telling everyone to go say hi to his mom. This style serves to the play’s advantage and disadvantage. It creates an intimate setting and gives the play a strong voice of authenticity. But at the same time the play reads as a lecture instead of a play.
A Brimful of Asha opens to Ravi and his mom Asha, who tell their story of how upon a trip to India, Ravi’s parents tried to arrange his marriage. Multiple times. It’s a furiously funny narrative, that presents both sides of the argument. Asha is charming and comical. Ravi brings in theatricality, playing his dad and various relatives in the story. I could see how A Brimful of Asha would be a lot better had the narrative shown us the story, instead of telling us the story. There was only one moment of bringing the play to life, when they acted out an argument. Otherwise, the play ran a little long and was mostly Ravi and Asha, telling us what happened.
But I felt such a personal connection to the story. There were some parts that really resonated with me, like when Ravi talks about all of the relatives at the table, speaking Hindi and asking: “Does he speak Hindi? Does he understand? Why doesn’t he try to speak?” and him interjecting every once in a while in terrible Hindi.
I’ve been there, not with the language being Hindi, but in that exact situation. Or when Asha interrupts and says that being in theatre isn’t a real profession, being a lawyer or doctor is. In that vein, my family has told me that they don’t want me to be poor. I’ve had many relative tell me that I should really take on my father’s business because that’s a real job. Why would I possibly want to give that up, for theatre? Surely, this industry isn’t stable and then I’ll go back to a real profession. At some point in the play, Asha says that she knows best because she’s Ravi’s mom. My own mother uses that argument every time we disagree, presenting irrationality into an argument that I will NEVER win.
The moment that spoke to me the most was when Ravi explained that he had a moment of sadness, why does he bother? Why doesn’t he just do what his parents want, marry a girl, get a real job and he won’t be in a constant battle.
And of course, the arguments against that are fierce and the main one is that it won’t make him happy. But I’ve had those crises, very recently. Some days I wish that what I want wasn’t so very much against the grain. And because A Brimful of Asha expressed that so directly, I forgive it for everything else that it could or should be.
Photo Credit: Erin Brubacher