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Gehri Dosti: 5 Short Plays With a South Asian Bent

Presented by Circle East at Baruch College's Bernie West Theater, 17 Lexington Ave., NYC, Jan. 6-23.

Paul Knox's writing in "Gehri Dosti" spans a grandly ambitious spectrum, moving easily from naturalism to satire to lyricism.

Under the author's direction, however, not all of the actors are up to his ambitious writing in these short plays. In the evening's fourth work, "Two Men in Shoulder Stand," Brenden Varma and Mohan Kulasingam strain to show affection while performing choreographer Sudarshan Belsare's stylized yoga movements as lovers coming to terms with one's HIV-positive status. In "I Am Mou," a wife's affair with the family governess rips apart a marriage. "Mou" unfolds in a series of brief, poetic monologues with each performer illuminated singly by Brian Aldous' atmospheric lighting. As the overly formal couple, Sam Morjaria and Sharbari Ahmed perform with an awkward stiffness. Nina Mehta, however, gives a compellingly muted performance as the governess.

The evening's most successful piece is "Eating Jain," in which an American and an Indian of the Jain religion share a sleeper car from Calcutta to Puri, where the American believes they will perform a makeshift ceremony celebrating their love. Bobby Abid and Michael Ellis navigate the piece's humor and its pathos gracefully as the men attempt, unsuccessfully, to bridge the cultures that divide them.

"Jain" is preceded by the poignantly lighthearted "Loving Japamala," in which a nun attempts to tell a gay man volunteering at her mission that she loves him. Shruti Shah brings a charming vulnerability to the role of the nun that nicely complements Robert Maisonett's equally vulnerable but street-smart portrayal of the volunteer.

Knox concludes "Gehri" with "Tara Tara Didi," a parody of Bollywood extravaganzas, in which prearranged straight weddings are comically replaced by gay ones. In "Tara," all cast members have a grand time with Knox's rhymed couplets, ending the evening on a happy note for characters and audience alike.

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