Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
A Nice Indian Boy
Playwright Madhuri Shekar is following a familiar template at first–parents wanting what's best for their children, the different perspectives of immigrant and American-born family members, the mysteries of love–but this story adds a few layers regarding sexual orientation and cultural expectation. Director Zi Alikhan has constructed a solid ensemble among the five actors, creating a genuine sense of family in a specific ethnic context. It may also be of interest that the director and the entire cast are making their Olney debuts in this production.
Archit and Megha Gavaskar (Abhimanyu Katyal, Lynette Rathnam) have come to accept that their son Naveen (Carol Mazhuvancheril) is gay, but they get a surprise when he brings home the man he plans to marry, Keshav Kurundkar (Noah Israel): a white man adopted and raised by Indian foster parents, who if anything is more attuned to Indian culture than Naveen is. Naveen's sister, Arundhathi Rao (Jessica Jain), is jealous because her mother pressured her into an arranged marriage and she sees her brother experiencing the romance she never did.
Mazhuvancheril and Israel make an endearing couple: meeting awkwardly at a Hindu temple, going on a date to see a blockbuster Bollywood movie, and generally becoming sweetly inseparable. That isn't to say that Naveen isn't annoyed by Keshav's "more Indian than thou" behavior toward the befuddled parents, or that Keshav sometimes seems just too ingenuous as he strives to create the community he didn't have as a child. Jain has a way with a dry wisecrack as Arundhathi tries to talk some sense into everyone else.
Katyal is the rock of the production, showing how Archit's love of cooking and deep knowledge of Indian food traditions have kept him going in spite of difficulties. Rathnam is also a delight as she shows her interest in learning about gay culture by watching Milk on television and explains how two people must both make the effort for a marriage to succeed.
Frank Oliva's set looks simple but hides a few surprises; Danielle Preston's costume designs incorporate Arhudhathi's power fashion as well as gorgeous traditional Indian robes; and choreographer/associate director Ambika Raina has created a moment of Bollywood-style choreography for the cast.
A Nice Indian Boy runs through April 16, 2023, in the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab at Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney md. For tickets and information, please call 301-924-3400 or visit www.olneytheatre.org.
By Madhuri Shekar