Harvest

In answer to the comment that "no one goes abroad these days," Jaya (Diksha Basu) mutters, "Not whole people, anyway." It's true. In Manjula Padmanabhan's play Harvest, bits of impoverished Indians go to America through voluntary organ donation sponsored by the company InterPlanta. InterPlanta's mordant commercials (the video director is Matt Bockelman) punctuate the scenes and are one of the best elements in a solid show; the happy actors' sincerity, and InterPlanta's little jingle, "We make life worth living," are uncomfortably close to the euphoric promises of Viagra commercials.

Jaya, the wife of organ donor Om (Debargo Sanyal), is the play's moral center, although the action is driven by Om and by Jaya's brother-in-law and lover, Jeetu (Rupak Ginn), a street hustler who says, "I don't mind being bought, but I won't be owned." After Om signs with InterPlanta, guards (who farcically finish each other's sentences) come to the house and take all the family's possessions. They install a hanging white rosette called a "contact module," through which their sponsor, a blond Southern woman named Ginni (hilariously bossy Christianna Nelson), beams her image. She treats them like prospective livestock, and in return sends them a toilet, shower, couch, and television. Ma (Naheed Khan) purchases "video paradiso," which breathes and eats for her as she watches television inside her mind. Act II provides more exposition; though the material is dramatically successful, the play is less powerful when the circumstances are pinned down.

Thanks to Padmanabhan's lyrical language, director Benjamin Mosse's pacing and humor, and a solid cast, Harvest is a fascinating, funny, and frightening glimpse of what happens when we commodify human beings. Although it addresses globalization, the play's issues are universal. As Bruce Springsteen sings, "Everybody has a hungry heart." Keeping body and soul together in the face of images of plenty is a human challenge not limited to the Third World.

Presented by La MaMa E.T.C. in association with East Coast Artists at La MaMa E.T.C., 74A E. Fourth St., NYC. Jan. 19-Feb. 5. Thu.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. (212) 352-3101.