REVIEW: Yoni Ki Baat (Rasaka Theatre)

Serious but Scattershot, this year’s Yoni Ki Baat
Takes on weightier subjects

yoni1

Rasaka Theatre presents

Yoni Ki Baat

 

Judging from last year’s press, Yoni Ki Baat must have been a light and sexy laugh fest. Even local contributing writers Angeli Primiani and Anita Chandwaney remarked on the more serious tone of Rasaka Theatre’s remount this year at Strawdog Theatre. “It’s not an angry show,” says Chandwaney, “some pieces are racier than last year. But this year there are angrier, more political monologues . . . more socially conscious.”

“The show is a little misleading,” she adds. “People really don’t know how radical it is. On one level there are all the jokes about sex, which the general audience can really enjoy. But the risk is in having South Asian American women talking about clits, rape, domestic violence.”

yoni3 Yoni Ki Baat, running through January 31, is inspired by Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, although its content is created by and for desi women and is open to continual change. Playwrights all over the world submit monologues to the global pool of work, so that each production varies from city to city, year to year. Rasaka’s current production boasts five local writers’ original work.

While a boon to a segment of women’s culture that receives scarce representation, this year’s Yoni Ki Baat suffers from all the usual pitfalls of “rebranding”. Monologues such as “Bollywood Breasts,” “Apple Pie,” “Can I Eat You First?” and “The Inevitable Rise” continue to make light and humorous the dilemmas South Asian American women face straddling multicultural responses to sexuality and women’s bodies. But it is its mix with heavier material that tends to scatter focus, which tends to result in a production suffering from comoedia interruptus.

Plus, there’s just as much danger dealing in heavier material with too light a touch. Monologues “Helpline” and “On-track” address absolute violations of women’s liberty: the first deals with a woman being forced into an abortion by her family because her fetus is a girl; the second explores the dangerous environment for women in Nepal because of sex trafficking. A little more rage, not less, might have better served these pieces but it seems instead that punches have been pulled.

yoni2

That’s unfortunate—first, because most of the performances given by the cast are warm, earthy, and accessible and provide an immediate, genuine connection with the audience. Secondly, it does seem that advantages for desi women in the West still overwhelmingly surpass what desi women can hope for back in the old country.

“Oh, yes, sex selection of children still goes on,” says Chandwaney. “It’s outlawed but ultra sound is available. Then you have those religious extremist Hindus who were attacking women for socializing in bars. They were subjected to The Pink Chaddi Project, where people sent them pink underwear in protest for their harassment. There are times—comparing my life here to theirs—I’m starting to feel like ‘there but for the grace of God’ . . .”

“I used to think that I was such a rebel,” says Angeli Primiani, “but my mother was the real rebel of our family. She was the first in the family to have her marriage be a love match. Her parents kept trying to force her into an arranged marriage. She would just show up to meetings with the potential groom in old, unattractive saris . . . no make-up . . . hair messy. They finally gave up on her so she could marry who she wanted.”

Rating: ★★½

 

 

yoni5 yoni4

above pictures from 2009 production

 

ADDENDUM:   a portion of proceeds from this show will go to Apna Ghar (Our Home), an organization that provides culturally appropriate services to survivors of domestic violence, including multilingual services and emergency shelter..  Apnar Ghar‘s focuses primarily on South Asian women and other immigrant communities,

 

CAST
  • Amanda Bobbitt
  • Amrita Dhaliwal
  • Seema Kumbhat
  • Mouzam Makkar
  • Alka Nayyar*
LOCAL WRITERS:
  • Anita Chandwaney*
  • Angeli Primlani
  • Pushkar Sharma
  • Prachi Murarka
  • Kit Idaszak
ADDITIONAL WRITERS:
  • Myriam Rahman
  • Shruti S. Tewari
  • Maulie Dass
  • Indira Chakrabarti
  • Nisha Gurbuxani
CREW
  • Artistic Director – Lavina Jadhwani*
  • Managing Director – Kamal Hans*
  • Assistant Director/Dramaturg – Vincent P. Mahler
  • Production Stage Manager – Kathy Mountz
  • Set Designer/Technical Director – Matt Buettner
  • Costumes/Props – Angeli Primlani*
  • Lighting Designer – Gary Echelmeyer
  • Sound Designer – Joe Court
  • PR Coordinator – Christopher Pazdernik
  • Marketing Coordinator – Amrita Dhaliwal
  • Graphic Designer – Vincent Malouf

* – indicates Rasaka Ensemble member

4 Responses

  1. While I have not had the pleasure of viewing this performance, I applaud any dialogue with respect to the dilemmas South Asian American women and men face in romantic relationships.

    • I totally agree with you Jasbina. One of the main functions of theatre is to bring to light human experiences and conditions that others have never seen before, thus allowing them to “walk in their shoes” in a way. As I edited this review, I have to admit that I knew nothing about the special struggles and unique circumstances south-asian woman encounter concerning sexuality and women’s rights. I suspect this play would be totally taboo if not protested in some parts of India – is this true?

      Scotty Zacher Founder/Editor, chicagotheaterblog.com

  2. One production of Yoni Ki Baat was mounted in Mumbai, but I believe all others have been produced only in the West.

    One thing I failed to mention in the review is that a portion of proceeds from the show will go to Apna Ghar (Our Home), an organization that provides culturally appropriate services to survivors of domestic violence, including multilingual services and emergency shelter.. Apnar Ghar’s focusses primarily on South Asian women and other immigrant communities,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: