SAWITRI

Theatre Group Mississauga

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REVIEW: WHERE THERE’S A WILL (SAWITRI THEATRE)

APRIL 22, 2018 JENNIFER ENCHIN

Where There’s A Will comes to the Alumnae Theatre in Toronto

Sawitri Theatre‘s Where There’s A Will, currently playing at the Alumnae Theatre, is a wildly clever two-act comedy penned by renowned Indian playwright Mahesh Dattani. The play shines a light on the lives of a dysfunctional middle-class Indian family as they verbally duke out their deep-seated inter-familial qualms.

David Huband leads the pack as Hasmukh Mehta, the grumpy, harsh-tongued dad. He’s the head of the family and lets everyone know it. He resents his free-loading millennial son, Ajit (Siddhant Sawant), he loathes his wife, Sonal (Jasmine Sawant), and is highly suspicious of his daughter-in-law, Preeti (Carlotta Massoletti) who is, in his eyes, “as sly as a snake.” When Hasmukh unexpectedly passes away, the household is turned upside down as the family scrambles to fulfill the terms of his strangely demanding will.

It’s very clear that playwright Mahesh Dattani has a knack for that good ol’ relatable situational comedy. There were several moments during the show where I sincerely giggled my head off. One that was particularly funny to me was when a fight broke out over the issue of whether or not Sonal should make more parathas. It was the kind of quick-fire argument you’d find on any given episode of Seinfeld, and this specific bit is totally sitcom worthy. These funny moments of wordplay are peppered throughout Dattani’s fine script and give the show a boost.

The material is strong in this way, but the overall production didn’t totally make the mark for me. Though individually very talented in their own right, the cast lacked chemistry as a group. I didn’t quite believe that they could be a family in real life, let alone in the universe of the play. On top of this palpable disconnect, there were several moments where lines were flubbed, and this continuously would take me out of the moment. I’m not sure if it was due to lack of rehearsal or lack of direction, but unfortunately I found that Sawitri’s interpretation didn’t do the script justice.

The characters for me were very one-note, and thus together didn’t reach full-on wacky sitcom family status, which I could see the script was just begging for.

There was, however, a bright spot in this sometimes uneven performance. All of those funny bits I was talking about earlier were executed with dead pan wit by Jasmine Sawant (Sonal). Her seamlessly delivered punch lines were refreshing amongst the stumbles.

Where There’s A Will wasn’t everything I had hoped it would be, but despite the occasional bout of clumsiness and confusion on stage, I could still appreciate the humour in Dattani’s highly unique and entertaining story.

Review by Mayank Bhatt on Generally About Books – October 31, 2015 at 15:30
“Controlled performance on stage is never easy, and even when an actor achieves it, the audience seldom, if at all, realizes the tremendous effort that goes into underplaying a role. Such expertise and ease comes with age and experience. A veteran thespian can be expected to pull it off quite effortlessly, but when callow actors do that, it is surprising, and refreshing. Of the many surprises that Case # 99 periodically sprung on the audience the Saturday evening I saw the play at Sampradaya earlier this month, the biggest and the most pleasant was the virtuoso performances by the three young actors who performed the only roles in the play. Their performances were so taut that there wasn’t a step was out of place, or an emotion that was excessive or unnecessary.”

Review by Mayank Bhatt on Generally About Books – September 28, 2013 at 16:33
“Sawitri’s actors lived the characters. The performances were uniformly superior…What makes the production memorable is the nuanced understanding of each character and the motivation that each of them have to do what they do, leading to a tragic climax. The minimalist stage design, depending more on the lighting, enabled the audience to directly connect with the characters on the stage, and moreover, enabled for a smoother flow of the narrative.”

Review by Shagorika Easwar for Desi News – Volume 17 Issue 1 January 2013
“Sawitri..bringing meaningful, accessible theatre that resonates with its audiences…..Theatre as good as this deserves our committed support.”

Anindo Hazra on FB, PhD Candidate, YorkUniversity – Jan 14, 2013 at 6:14pm
“Thanks …Sawitri for a wonderful production……Kudos to Pagnan, a young talent who will, no doubt, continue to flourish, and the Sawitri Theatre Group for reviving an early work by Dattani.”

Anindita Kumar on FB – December 19, 2012 at 3:29pm (Audience Member)
“Hey Jasmine amazing performance by all of you. It was very well directed and I loved the set design and use of space. Congratulations to the cast and crew.”

Review by Bhaswaati Ghosh for MyBindi online – 2012
“sawitri’s cast of actors does justice to all the different characters….one has to commend director, Christina Collins, who dealt with the subject matter deftly….Equally noteworthy is the work of set and lighting designer, Joe Pagnan…clever and effective.”