Highly Recommended ***** I was lucky enough to see Company Theatre Mumbai’s “Piya Behrupiya”, a Hindi translation of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre last night. Shakespeare would have loved this exuberant, folksy, ridiculously absurd interpretation of “Twelfth Night”! If you’re free on September 29th, I urge you to see this brilliant performance! I give it 4 BIG Spotlights.
I was impressed by the ease with which Theatre Company Mumbai adapted to the “Tug of War” set. A large banner, depicting an Indian Shakespeare (or a reasonable facsimile), and four columns were added to the stage. There was a small platform in front of the banner where Percussionist Rahul Sharma and Assistant Percussionist Niketa Saraf played a variety of percussion instruments, while Arnod Bhatt played the Harmonium.
Whenever the cast weren’t actually performing, they too knelt on the platform. The entire cast would frequently get up and dance. Sometimes they yelled from their seats, once or twice even indulging in some fisticuffs on the platform.
The cast: Orsino (Sagar Deshmukh), Sebastian (Puranjeet Dasgupta), Uncle Toby (Gagan Singh Riar), Maria (Trupti Khamkar), Olivia (Mansi Multani), Malvolio (Saurabh Nayyar), Fool (Neha Saraf), Andrew (Aadar Malik) and Viola (Geetanjali Kulkarni).
My friend Crista and I laughed a lot during Act I. At intermission, the people sitting in front of us, who were native speakers, told us about some of the nuances we might have missed. They said that the language was beautiful in Hindi, and that it all rhymed. They also said that there were cultural layers to the performance as well. Finally, they said it was both risqué and ribald. We were glad to get that information because it was obvious that the projected translations, although helpful, weren’t anywhere near complete.
At many key points in the story, the action would stop for a song, which were described but not translated. They were easy to interpret – drunken rambling, unrequited love, angry scolding, diabolical plotting, and so on.
CST partnered with Eye on India to bring “Piya Behrupiya” to Chicago for the Shakespeare 400 celebration. Eye on India, a 3-week-long annual festival, is the leading platform for Indian programming in Chicago.
“Piya Behrupiya” has one more performance, at 7:30 pm September 29th, in the Court Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier, Chicago.
Running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes, with an intermission. Tickets start at $48. Parking is available at a 40% discount in the Navy Pier Garages with validation from CST. FYI (312) 595-5600 or www.chicagoshakes.com.