Confused actors fail to lift a disjointed tale

Confusion reigns in CurtainCall Productions' California Suite with bad casting, acting
Last Updated 30 June 2014, 14:01 IST

Even after a woman screaming in pain makes an entry on the stage at Akshara Theatre, the audience hardly takes notice of her. The reason: Mismanagement on the part of the orga-nisers which led to the late entry of audience, frantically looking for seats in the darkness while the play California Suite was being introduced and initiated by CurtainCall Productions.

Amid all the confusion and disturbances by fellow audience members, one is able to absorb the narrative only 15 minutes after it began. What one could figure out was that Beth (played by Inderpreet) was seething in pain due to an injury caused during a Tennis match. Her husband supports and helps her to balance on one foot and their banter informs the viewers of their vacation with their best friends who also become the reason for their unhappiness.

Soon the friends make an entry and the tale appears more impromptu than comical.

It is unclear if the confusion among the audience transfers onto the stage or vice versa but the confusion does dominate throughout the performance. The scenes change and the actors put on different garbs, but those who are bad at their act, become worse in the later segments. For instance Shrishti’s portrayal of an over-dramatic Millie in the first story is somewhat digestible but her portrayal of Mrs Michaels is terrible when it comes to believing that she has just come to know of her husband’s deceit.

Moreover, the direction doesn’t make it explicit that the three short stories of the visitors from Chicago, Philadelphia and London, are linked due to their common place of action ie ‘Suite 203-04’. Unless one reads the synopsis or checks with the director (Vishesh Arora), it is difficult to understand on what exactly is the joke in this adaptation of the play originally written by Neil Simon.

In order to divide the suite into a living room and an adjoining bedroom with an en suite bath, the stage designer introduces a unsteady door which hinders the audience’s view of a full stage.

While the first story ends rather abruptly, the second is no better with Marvin Michaels showing his helplessness in hiding a prostitute from his wife. It is only the presentation of the third story ‘Visitors from London’ – who have come to attend the Academy Awards, that the play seems directed and attempted with a careful beginning, thought-through middle and spiced-up end.  

Nevertheless, the confidence and attitude of Sahir (who plays Mort Hollender and Marvin Michaels in part one and two respectively) and the antics of Diana (enacted by Inderpreet) are enjoyed thoroughly by the audience as is the strong depiction of Sidney by Prateek – who manages to keep the character’s sexual orientation in wraps till the curtains are down.

One wonders how the play would have been, had the confusion been orderly and casting done intelligently!

(Published 30 June 2014, 14:01 IST)

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