note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Sheila Barth
Playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil is rapidly becoming a force in contemporary theater. Her “The Displaced Hindu Gods Trilogy” currently making its New England premiere with Company One through Nov. 22, is no exception.
The three plays draw upon the three deities of the Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Kapil is of Indian descent, but she was born in Bulgaria, raised in Sweden, lives in Minneapolis, and knows firsthand how it feels to be a displaced person.
It isn’t necessary to see all three plays, because they aren’t intertwined or connected. I attended one-act, 90-minute provocative play, “The Chronicles of Kalki,” in which Kapil beautifully weaves mystery, mysticism, mayhem, and the painful twinges, of adolescent loneliness, humiliation and unpopularity.
With her usual theatrical flair, Director M. Bevin O’Gara makes every scene an artistic event. Each character is finely developed, their strengths and weaknesses exposed as the play unwinds.
Flanked by theatergoers on three sides, the stage setting casts a mysterious glow at the outset. Three large windows, mounted askew in the background, are streaked with falling rain, setting a cold, damp, gloomy atmosphere. A desk and chairs are the sole props in this makeshift police detective’s interrogation room. The scenes shift rapidly between two teen-age girls, whom a detective is interviewing individually. He’s gathering information about their missing, new friend and classmate, named Kalki.
The “totally bad-ass” teen-ager blew into town from parts unknown. She tells her new friends she is an atheist, a former Hindu, with two siblings, but they aren’t close to each other. The offhanded remark is a mystical hint to the other two Hindu deities.
Kalki appears and disappears with haunting regularity. She doesn’t enter through the door, like regular people. She shows up, unexpectedly, soaking wet, knocking at their bedroom windows.
Kalki loves the rain. She loves standing in the rain. She is strong, forceful, sexual, defiant, and fearless. She’s also empowering to her two nebbish friends, who are outcasts among their “C-cup,” popular female classmates.
As the girls reluctantly answer the detective’s questions, claiming to know little to nothing about the flamboyant, brass, goth-looking Kalki or her disappearance, they experience telltale flashbacks, giving us a bird’s-eye view of their encounters and inside their psyches.
At first, their individual and encounters together are awkward and downright embarrassing for self-effacing, misfit Girls 1 and 2, but the story gains momentum, spiraling more rapidly, revealing unpredictable truths. Suddenly, in a conscience-riddled outburst, Girl 1 reveals her humiliating situation that occurred on the school playing field, in front of several, jeering classmates. Suddenly, the pieces fall into place, revealing the mystery.
But not totally.
That’s the beauty of “The Chronicles of Kalki”. Audiences can’t escape its potency.
Ally Dawson is powerful as Kalki, but she’d be even more outstanding if she didn’t speak so rapidly at times.
Stephanie Recio as Girl 1 and Pearl Shin as Girl 2 are wonderfully awkward, self-conscious, and conflicted about Kalki and her effect on them; while Brandon Green portraying the patient, caring cop is a deliberate, non-dominant, but necessary link in this entertaining story’s chain.
If you attend any of these plays (and you should), read your program ahead of time. There’s excellent information about Kapil and the Hindu deities.
BOX INFO: Company One Studio Sessions presents Aditi Brennan Kapil’s “The Displaced Hindu Gods Trilogy”, including “BRAHMAN/i,” a one-Hijra stand-up comedy show; “The Chronicles of Kalki;” and “Shiv,” appearing through Nov. 22, at the Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre, 539 Tremont St., in Boston’s South End. Tickets:$25-$38; Marathon Day packages (all three plays) start at $70. Visit www.companyone.org or call 617-933-8600.