REVIEW: Yoni Ki Baat (Rasaka Theatre)

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

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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.

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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

 

 

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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,

 

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This week’s Chicago theater openings & closings

Skyline-Chicago

show openings

Garden of the Three Gorilla Tango Theatre

A Hampstead Hooligan in King Arthur’s Court Chicago dell’Arte

Illocal Comedy Corn Productions

It’s Good for You 2 Gorilla Tango Theatre

Jackie: an American Life Theatre-Hikes

The Night Season Vitalist Theatre

Rollin’ Outta Here Naked Gorilla Tango Theatre

Scotland Road Gorilla Tango Theatre

Last of My Species Redmoon Theater

Timeless Is More Gorilla Tango Theatre

TV Re-Runs A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre

 

distant-chicago-skyline

show closings

Cirque Shanghai: Bright Spirit Navy Pier

Culture/Clash Rasaka Theatre 

The Duck Variations Theatre-Hikes

Rod Blagojevich Superstar! The Second City

Short Shorts Annoyance Theatre

The Tragedy of Jennifer, Brad and Angelina Blackbird Theatre

News from CAR (Chicago Artist’s Resource) – Theatre Mir, Ra Joy of IAA, and Rasaka Theatre

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»» Opening next week –  The Arab-Israeli Cookbook, presented by Theatre Mir, brings Arab and Israeli voices together in the stories of ordinary people living in a rich yet divided world in Israel and the West Bank.  Based on real-life interviews by playwright Robin Soans and directors Tim Roseman and Rima Brihi, this deeply human play weaves the stories and recipes of more than forty characters who reveal common culture and experiences amidst the daily conflict.  In restaurants, shops, cafes, and homes, everyone has a story to tell and a recipe to cook.  “…Cookbook” runs March 5 – April 5 at the DCA Theatre in the Loop. More info here.
   
 

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Ra Joy, Executive Director, Illinois Arts Alliance (IAA)

 

»» Ra Joy, Executive Director of the Illinois Arts Alliance (as well as artist!), speaks out about the importance of arts advocacy; speaking out and supporting the arts and arts-friendly policies.
   
 

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  Developed out of CAR’s Incubator program, Rasaka Theatre Company, the Midwest’s first South Asian American ensemble, will present the nation’s first South Asian short play festival on March 30th at 7:30pm, at the downtown DCA Studio Theatre.  All of the short plays were created during Rasaka’s first annual ‘Playwrighting Bootcamp’ held over a weekend in August 2008.  (Buy tix here)
 

 

Workshops for Arts Organizations and Individuals:

CAR

 

Key organizations who provide assistance to artists and arts organizations:

The Actors Fund •   Arts & Business Council of Chicago •  Chicago Artists’ Coalition •  Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs •   Chicago Dance and Music AllianceChicago Filmmakers •  Chicago Music Commission •   Columbia College Chicago eCenter •    Executive Service Corps •  Guild Literary Complex •  Illinois Arts AllianceIllinois Arts Council •  Independent Feature ProjectLawyers for the Creative Arts •  League of Chicago Theatres •  Links Hall •  NARAS – The Recording AcademyReeltime •  UIC Health in the Arts Program   •