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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Case # 99: Another gem from Sawitri

Controlled performance on stage is never easy, and even when an actor achieves it, the audience seldom, if at all, realizes the tremendous effort that goes into underplaying a role. Such expertise and ease comes with age and experience. 

A veteran thespian can be expected to pull it off quite effortlessly, but when callow actors do that, it is surprising, and refreshing. 

Of the many surprises that Case # 99 periodically sprung on the audience the Saturday evening I saw the play at Sampradaya earlier this month, the biggest and the most pleasant was the virtuoso performances by the three young actors who performed the only roles in the play. Their performances were so taut that there wasn’t a step was out of place, or an emotion that was excessive or unnecessary.

Just for the performances of the three young actors, the play was paisa vasool.  Raina Desai (Madhuri), Siddhant Sawant (Satyasheel), and Seth Mohan (Inspector Ramesh Sawant) turn Case #99 to a memorable experience, transform the suspense-filled, nail-biting thriller into one that hovers over the edge, always in the danger of tripping over the precipice but always managing to dearly hold on to the terra firma.
Madhuri watches in horror as
Inspector Sawant holds a gun to Satyasheel

In deliberately distinct ways, the three characters depict greed and avarice, fear and fragility. Ultimately, it is their vulnerability that endears them to the audience. Sawant’s Satyasheel is the epitome of low cunning that crumbles under the analytical unraveling of the mystery by Mohan’s Inspector Sawant; but for all his cockiness, and sure-footedness, the inspector proves to be all-too-human. 

That evening, both the young male actors were a study in contrast, and control. But the evening clearly belonged to Desai’s Madhuri, who is bold, brash at the beginning, but then quickly turns brittle, and ultimately breaking down in the end. 

Satyasheel terrorizes Madhuri
Jasmine Sawant’s adaption into English of the original Marathi play by Yogesh Soman keeps the audience riveted to the end. She retains the authenticity of the original by retaining elements of the original – such as deliberately not translating Indian currency denominations into North American ones. So, lakhs remain lakhs and don’t turn into millions, and crores also remain crores instead of turning into tens of millions.

However, she deftly alters the tone of the content to make it more contemporary, and relevant to a general North American audience. The original Marathi play has had an incredibly popular run, and by staging it in English in Canada, Sawitri Theatre Group has served theatre lovers in Toronto well with something that is not generally associated with the group’s oeuvre.

Sampradaya, the venue, is a cozy place that enabled the three young actors to engage the audience and draw them into their shenanigans. Over these last few years, the Savitri team has coalesced into a finely-tuned operatic orchestra that seemingly surpasses its best with every show.

Images: https://www.facebook.com/SawitriTheatreGroup/ 

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