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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 09
Delightful Mother sweetly funny
Arts & Entertainment
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Delightful Mother sweetly funny

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Mother in Another Language
ACT Theatre
Through March 6


A sweetly funny and tightly written play is being presented at ACT Theatre in coalition with both ReAct Theatre company and Pratidhwani, an Indian cultural nonprofit focused on performance arts. Mother in Another Language, by Taniya Hossain, tells the uncommon story of an American (polyglot) woman who is in love with an Indian man, and focuses on how we all can speak the same English language, yet not always understand each other.

Karen (Angela DiMarco) is in love with Tarak (Bikas Saha). So, when Tarak presents her with a ring and shows her a house he is 'thinking' of buying, she's at first overjoyed - until Tarak never actually asks her to marry him, and she finds out he already bought the house, and his mother thinks he's getting married and is coming to live with them in the house! Her cultural expectation is that she be consulted and requested to marry, so she has a chance to decide yes or no. His cultural expectation is to make sure he has everything in place to provide properly for a bride, and that she should understand the strong pressures on his family to move back to India and marry and have a family there. Tarak wants Karen to accommodate his mother's desires to be with her son, and it's a small thing, in his estimation, to accept the ring, the house, and the mother-in-law tenant in order to do what they want, overall: to be married and live together in the U.S.

Even more complications ensue when Mother Meena (Meenakshi Rishi) moves in, and then so does Karen's down-and-out mother, Blanch (Walayn Sharples). Of course, cultures between the mothers clash, but they do a good job of finding ways to get along.

All this is laid out with finesse by playwright Hossain in quick and humorous scenes. A simple set by Katie Hansen lays out a basement apartment with two bedroom doors. Co-director Agastya Kohli links scenes together with bouncy Indian songs that seem to be pop music, as audience members familiar with them sing along during set changes, clearly enjoying themselves. No costumer is listed, but costumes are clearly important, especially as conservative mother Meena starts breaking out of her shell to embrace Americanisms. DiMarco's costuming could have used a punching-up, as her costumes are somewhat drab in comparison to either the ethnic clothing or the outrageous outfits that her character's mother, Blanch, wears.

Kohli and co-director David Hsieh do a nice job with the pacing and comedic timing of the scenes. Nitya Venkateswaran plays Karen's good friend, and Robert Pillitteri plays an Italian hardware owner who finds Meena desirable. The entire production is delightful. However, there is an odd lack of chemistry between DiMarco and Saha, and their stated love doesn't seem matched by their affinity for each other. In fact, they almost never even kiss. Perhaps that was directed, as a way of emphasizing Karen's discomfort, but in this case, it makes her seem far less happy in the relationship than the script implies.

In any case, a good argument is made for cultural difficulties rising out of language confusion. But after all, we do unite in common aspirations and desires for our families and children. For more information, go to www.acttheatre.org or call 206-292-7676.

Discuss opinions at sgncritic@gmail.com.

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