|Lillette Dubey and Vijay Crishna|
One of the main draws for me was that the play was both acted and directed by the amazing Lillette Dubey, whose brilliant film performance you may have seen when she played the mother of the bride in the celebrated indie gem, Monsoon Wedding. (Another fun fact: Dubey at the time was roughly the same age as the actress who played her daughter, making her smooth, graceful performance all the more astounding).
Like the best of Indian plays in English, Dance Like A Man too is character driven, peeling back layer after interesting layer about not only its characters but about, among other things, gender roles, choices (including the lack thereof), and one’s place in the world.
The story begins when Lata (played by Suchitra Pillai) brings her unassuming fiancé (played by Joy Sengupta), home to meet her parents, who live in the home of Lata’s late grandfather, who was a much-admired freedom fighter, helping free India of its colonial shackles. Lata, like her parents (played by Dubey and Vijay Crishna), is a classical dancer, in the style of Bharat Natyam.
|Suchitra Pillai and Joy Sengupta|
The play was dubbed in the local market as a comedy but, while it has many moments of humor (particularly as the new fiancé figures out how to navigate through the quirks of his betrothed and her parents), it’s full of ever-heightening tension and suspense as the characters explore where they’ve come from, where they’re going, and where their true loyalties and devotions lie. Indeed, it’s brilliance hails in part because of the outstanding performances of the four actors who take two acts and 90 minutes to pull you through half a century in the life of one family and their countless challenges, mostly self inflicted.
If you get a chance, you must see this play, and chances are good, you’ll have an opportunity at a theatre near you. The actors have given more than 400 performances of this play that has traveled around the world countless times. You name it—Muscat, Amsterdam, New York, Brussels, Kuala Lampur, Singapore, Auckland—the play has been there and is most likely coming back. The New York Times puts it best: “Seeing acting of this quality is transforming ... and even if the play becomes disturbing at times .....joyful!”