“It’s just a story about a girl who wouldn’t get off her mattress.”
That was the line, actual words of playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil that had audiences at Boston Court giggling after all of the explanation director Emily Beck, expounded upon during the after show Illuminations dialog. And of all the components of this visually imaginative production, it made the most sense. Thing is though, Shiv’s story is a little bit more.
Shiv’s father Bapu (Dileep Rao) is writer, a dreamer, an adventurer, a risk taker, a man full of desires in search of fulfillment and words longing to be spoken. For a well-known poet, in his own country, America is the next step to success. But as it turns out, life as an “outsider” is harder than he imagined. His voice is stifled by culture and the business of publishing – tragic for an artist who breathes epic and verse. Not wanting to succumb to his own unhappiness or the idea that there is no more possibility for him, Shiv’s father leaves his family for a new life with a new American woman. “He has to go”.
Shiv (Monika Jolly) is her father’s daughter. Smart, adventurous, unafraid of life or the things in it. She has had most of the benefit of emigrating to America. And the secure embrace of her father’s unfailing love. But when her father leaves, Shiv is displaced. She tightly holds on to this man, his truths, his beliefs, his memories. She takes on his anger and disappointment and eventually sets on a path to heal his past by confronting the very thing that caused the rift. Here is where story lies.
The mattress is not a metaphysical one. It is a very real piece of “furniture” which they both use as a vessel to discover the extraordinary world of fantasy they live in. In many ways, the story is more about him – at least at the beginning. He is such a big personality and influence with his ability and wisdom to see the extraordinary as well as the practical within the kaleidoscope of life.
In Shiv’s obsession to seek out the truth, however, she begins to see the world with her own eyes, her own imagination. She struggles with living in the moment, how to step into it and to leave the rest behind.
Eventually, through past and present, reality and fantasy, and through her father pushing her off their ‘ship’, she finally comes to learn that she is her own person and must travel her own path. She literally gets off the mattress and walks forward on her own road.
Shiv is a sweet, tale that by the careful direction of Emily Beck is brought to life in the most fantastical and beautiful of ways for a gorgeous satisfying finale. Shiv grows up. She awakens to herself and will forge ahead on an adventure of her own making.
Dileep Rao is so appealing and charismatic as Bapu. He is a resonant player that fills up the house as is Monika Jolly as Shiv. There are some big gaps in the script mostly between Shiv and her lover Gerard (James Wagner), where the near pauses during each and every line between the two creates question as to the director’s intention. But otherwise the story is served, and well
…who doesn’t like a happy ending.