& occasionally about other things, too...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dinner with Akbar: Jancie Goveas

Janice Goveas’s Dinner with Akbar is an evocative play that depicts the seemingly unending struggles of an immigrant – Akbar – as he tries to get a hold of his life under constantly changing circumstances. 

Mumtaz, Akbar’s wife has left him for another man. Akbar’s daughter Jasmine is a loving, obedient adolescent who is in love with Rashid. 

Abdul’s recent separation from Mumtaz has changed him, and although he strives hard to maintain a semblance of his old routine, clearly he is losing the struggle.

Akbar is from India and is "a liberal intellectually and traditional in his personal life" - that may not sound as paradoxical as it is to many South Asians, living outside the subcontinent.

He wants Rashid to be tolerant of other religions. “Religious pride is not a healthy thing, son,” he cautions and explains, “It leads to communalism, to fanaticism, to all of the things that are contrary to civilization and tolerance.” Yet, he gets into a violent rage when he learns that Jasmine and Rashid are “hanging out”.

Rashid is a second-generation immigrant of wealthy parents, who clearly understands that he needs a job and an empirical education will get him that more easily than an education in liberal arts. 

However, he is still culturally anchored in old-world values and traditions. Rashid sacrifices his intimacy with Jasmine so that the relationship between the father and the daughter doesn’t deteriorate beyond repair.

The characters in the play – Akbar, Jasmine, Rashid and Mumtaz – are carefully and lovingly etched. Janice brings them alive by creating conflict and tension. The scene between Mumtaz and Akbar is the marvelous. The playwright avoids an acrimonious slanging match (which would have been logical and not out of place) and handles the encounter with mature sensitivity.

Janice read excerpts of the play at Masala! Mehndi! Masti! Saturday July 24. The play is from her collection of plays Margaret in search of herself and other plays.

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