The Men In White at Arts Club Theatre
Until March 11th
Great actors lift unique story but it’s a bit of a mullygrubber.
Hasan works in a chicken-processing shack in Dongri, Mumbai with his adoptive guardian with dreams of being a cricket player. His brother Abdul lives in Vancouver as an illegal immigrant (he was lied to by his sponsor) and plays on an amateur cricket team.
There are tensions in Dongri between the Muslims and the Hindus and violence and riots are common.
There are so many new wonderful concepts in this script by the award winning Anosh Irani but they don’t really take flight. Director and dramaturge Rachel Ditor has directed a handsome production with a striking set design Anir Ofek that has the Canadian team’s locker room merges into the shop in India.
The cast is delightful and many are making their Arts Club debut. Standouts include: Raugi Yu as the slightly daft Chinese team member, Risha Nanda as the strong willed potential girlfriend for young Hasan, and Sanjay Talwar as the teasing guardian.
The brothers are the heart of the story. Shekhar Paleja has a quiet open intensity that makes him quite riveting on stage. As the younger brother Nadeem Phillip is so expressive and joyful that watching him get tied in knots about his crush or mocking his papa fills you with giddy fun.
The show has a lot of wonderful concepts as I mentioned: religious tensions, the Muslim faith and the Hindu faith, the effect of international politics felt in Canada, and the game of cricket. But they don’t ever fully get explored.
Many of the scenes in act one keep repeating the same information and when drama starts it is mostly off stage or through sudden outbursts that don’t always feel natural.
Case in point the character of Doc (Munish Sharma) tells a story about why he hates Muslims in Act One (even though he has been playing cricket with one for awhile) then in Act Two he tells another much more personal story to explain his hatred – but I couldn’t figure out why he banked the second story to reveal later.
But the biggest disappointment for me is that I didn’t really get any insight into any of the issues or themes that were brought up. I did learn what a ‘duck’ meant in cricket – a score of zero – but not much else. I looked up the term ‘mullygrubber’ – a ball that doesn’t bounce.
All the scenes in Canada are in the locker room but nobody use the showers on the set. Just like the show, potential was there but it didn’t really pay off. That and it doesn’t bounce.