New York | 2h 0m | Already closed

India Pale Ale

From 20 critic and 110 member reviews
Members say: Relevant, Thought-provoking, Disappointing, Quirky, Ambitious

About the show

In MTC's new comic drama, a tight-knit Punjabi community gathers to celebrate the wedding of a traditional family’s only son, just as their strong-willed daughter announces her plans to move away and open a bar. More…

As they come together for feasts filled with singing and dancing, one generation’s cherished customs clash with another’s modern-day aspirations, and ghosts and pirates from the family’s past linger in everyone’s thoughts – until one sudden event changes everything. "India Pale Ale" is a play about legacy, life, and longing.


“A vibrant and authentic portrait of a modern American family. It's magnetically staged...Some exuberant Punjabi dances are as much a part of ‘India Pale Ale's’ authenticity as the Indian foods prepared in the scenes that bookend its first and final act — the first is a celebration, the final one is a more somber attempt to heal the pain of a terrible fact-based event that leaves us to contemplate a poignant and all too relevant message...A first class production.” Full Review


"It’s crammed full of everything...You are constantly taken by surprise with a narrative that keeps expanding and evolving...Davis’s direction and choreography is lush, adventurous, and captivating. The staging is inventive and he inspires a sense of urgency in the performers to grapple with the text and make it fly...Davis has crafted a highly entertaining yet deeply rooted, emotionally intense production." Full Review

Diandra Reviews it All

"Beautifully directed by Davis and poignantly written by Backhaus, 'India Pale Ale' may present itself as a comedy but, in truth, it is a drama with a few laughs...While the first act of the play charms with legends of pirates and a langar/ Engagement Party that makes you adore the Batra family, Act Two leaves you in complete mourning, which is the point. You have to love someone to truly be saddened for their loss, and through elements of magical realism...Act Two pulses through your heart." Full Review

Front Row Center

“Touches the issues of hate crime and terrorism in an entertaining and fun manner...The music and choreography were lively and fun. The writing is humorous, witty and reflects the happy-go-lucky attitude of Punjabis. All the actors were strong in inhabiting their characters with a lot of humor...An ambitious play with a lot of potential, albeit not as impactful, in its current version. There is too much going on in the play,..An entertaining and important play." Full Review

New York Theater

"Much of this is fascinating, as are the delightful scenes that glimpse that culture — the family preparing a meal after services; their lively, elaborate dancing...The paradox of the play is that, in its effort to make the case that none of us are The Other, it assumes that is how the audience will treat the characters...Yet, if there’s an unfortunate pedantic undertone to 'India Pale Ale,' there is ultimately a hopefulness to the play that we couldn’t need more right now." Full Review


“Jaclyn Backhaus' ‘India Pale Ale’ is a revealing window on a world not usually seen on our stages. Unfortunately, the play often feels like it is written in a private language and that this family story is of things we are not privy to like the son Jol who no one will talk about but we eventually find out that he moved to India where he died young. As a result, the play seems longer than its actual running time. Backhaus may still be too close to her material to have had an objectivity.” Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"The play...for all its occasional charms, will remain memorable more for the occasion of its performance than for its contribution to dramatic literature…A high-energy blend of heightened realism and bold fantasy…The actors are all good, Shazi Raja being especially promising, but everyone works a little too hard at being amusingly appealing…I smiled more than I laughed but was consistently entertained, even during the more contrived and awkward parts." Full Review

The New York Times

“A cheerfully instructive work...Even in its bleakest moments, the dialogue is punctuated with the wholesome teasing and perkiness of a family sitcom. The supporting characters, drawn in the same vein...They’re a likably peppy lot, although all that matey ‘yaaargh-ing’ can get a bit tedious. I’m assuming that Ms. Backhaus deliberately shaped her characters in the mold of familiar domestic comedies to underscore their universality...But they seldom register as fully dimensional beings." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"It is at once educational about Punjabi-Americans, including their culture and heritage, and also a plea for understanding and peaceful relations between people...While the play is best when showing intimately the Batra family members and their lives, the playwright also goes in for fantasy numbers attempting to show the heritage linking to pirate ancestors...At moments the ploy becomes downright silly...The interplay between visiting Tim and the Batra amusing and hopeful" Full Review

City Cabaret

"Backhaus' discerning 'India Pale Ale' takes place in the middle of America where the third-generation Batra family lives...Through her performance, Shazi Raza's portrayal of Boz is inhabited with energy, determination and ferver...Although 'India Pale Ale' is more lightweight than heavy drama, it is sincere and brimming with good vibes, delivering an evident message at this divisive time, especially coming after the Pittsburgh attack on worshippers only days before." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Ffar too earnest and desperate in its socially conscious narrative to permit any sense of ease or pleasure in its indulgence...Needs a stronger and more personal narrative that didn’t feel plucked from a handbook...I feel the playwright trying to grab hold of our hearts and although my fond affection stays strong and caring, my engagement is stalled. Too many issues tossed my way, left me feeling dizzy and disconnected...I believe in the cause but not the product being sold.” Full Review

New York Stage Review

“Often lively, certainly sincere but ultimately lightweight play, which is well directed by Will Davis, and obviously produced by Manhattan Theatre Club as an antidote to today’s promulgated-from-the-oval-office divisiveness and its too often-homicidal repercussions...Despite the rather sizable complication, the play slides to a likable and conciliatory but not sufficiently deep, conclusion...There’s no arguing with the cast’s performances or Davis’ overseeing them." Full Review


“A play that has more "teachable moments" than genuine ones...This urgency to moralize only keeps us at arm's length from the family with which we're supposed to be breaking down barriers...The events that unfold neither support each other nor carry their own tension...You feel Backhaus hint at the friction between Americanization and Punjabi tradition, and then immediately withdraw as if to avoid the implication that those two things are incompatible.” Full Review

Stage Left

“The characters are lovable, if mostly two-dimensional...At turns humorous, magical, musical, and poignant, ‘India Pale Ale’ feels too self-consciously tooled to educate its mostly-white audience about a subgroup of Americans they might not know—a noble cause in this time of increasing division and discord that ultimately makes for a rather flat and didactic emotional experience. I wish the play hewed more toward its fantastical impulses than its literalism." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“What ‘India Pale Ale’ isn't good at is exposition. That, and organization. Jaclyn Backhaus's drama, an immersive plunge into the deep end of Punjabi culture as transplanted to the present-day U.S., has some rewards down the pike, specifically in the handsomeness of MTC’s production and the revealing to us mainstreamers of an unfamiliar, singular subculture. You just have to take some unprepossessing side roads to get to all that...You just wish it were laid out more clearly.” Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

“A collection of ‘teachable moments’. Some of the lessons are rather unimportant though interesting...The play itself bears responsibility for disengagement from its thematic development...The intra-family dysfunction distract from the primary dramatic arc...The cast fiercely inhabits their characters...That said, ‘India Pale Ale’ remains a stalwart attempt to ‘see’ and ‘understand’ and to stay woke to the social injustices extant outside the doors of the theater.” Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"Badly in need of further development...There's very little plot to speak of...There are some amusing moments...But the relentless quirkiness and didactic speechifying reveal a playwright trying much too hard, and neither director Will Davis' amateurish staging nor the ensemble's uneven performances help matters. ‘India Pale Ale’ concludes with a lovely offering to the audience but it's not enough to compensate for the otherwise empty feeling this ‘promising’ work leaves.” Full Review

Daily Beast

“This...production comes to us less in anger than understanding; this uneven and unfocused play wants to reach out...The play moves in odd currents...The act of violence...feels imposed...Tonally, there is no lead-up...It feels inserted for incident, and the portraits of grief and reconstruction afterwards feel bitty and incomplete...A similar lack of coherence haunts the direction...A tangle of good intentions and cultural politics do not always a good play make.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“’India Pale Ale’ is all exhortation and no drama. The family relationships are not explored, and most of the characters are one-dimensional: The women gossip about relationships while making food, and Boz's brother and ex-boyfriend are a pair of stereotypical bros...In many ways, the play turns on Boz's relationship to her father, but the character barely exists...Everyone is fine, but nobody makes a strong impression...Davis' direction is pacey but lacking in nuance.” Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

“It’s not fun to criticize a play like 'India Pale Ale,' which so badly wants to be a model of good citizenship and generosity, and falls so dismally theatrically flat. But from its very opening moments, the sketchily drawn story of the Batra family feels confused about everything from tone to intention to narrative focus...It wanders and hiccups and fails to get any sort of real emotional foothold, then latches onto a tragedy in order to catapult its engineless plot forward.." Full Review

Relevant, Profound, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Timely

See it if you enjoy plays that involve ethnic (Punjabi) families; you appreciate a good script with superb acting and a few very funny scenes

Don't see it if you might find some of the scenes confusing; you prefer more traditional theater; you only like big Broadway splashy musicals

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant, Funny, Informative

See it if You have an interest in learning a little about Indian culture and are not triggered by some recent religious tragedies in the news.

Don't see it if You are not interested in seeing a play about a culture that’s not typically visible in mainstream productions.

Also I almost didn’t attend because I wasn’t feeling well. I read the revie... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Absorbing, Great acting, Funny, Delightful

See it if The show was very entertaining and original and dealt with race issues. I also thought the show has good acting and is funny.

Don't see it if You don't like stories about racial issues and Indian/Punjabi culture.

Cleverly original, Entertaining, Intelligent, Multi-cultural, Great cast

See it if you enjoy new nontraditional plays, question what it means to be an American from a non-WASP pov, care about family touched by hate crime

Don't see it if you're only comfortable within your own ethnic group & don't want to learn about others. Serious & timely play presented in lighthearted way

Also Very worthy themes, but sometimes got a little preachy. Grand kids of ... Read more Read less

Relevant, Intense, Intelligent, Great writing, Edgy

See it if You want to learn more about Indian Culture and issues of assimilation in the US.

Don't see it if You’re not patient with time traveling moving setting back in time to fantastic pirate days of yore.

Enchanting, Great acting, Resonant, Relevant, Quirky

See it if you want a play that is fundamentally uplifting, about love, family, and community. You want a politically relevant or soul-feeding night.

Don't see it if you don't want to see something with a sense of humor and a positive and complicated lens, or you hate plays about families.

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Funny, Refreshing, Slow

See it if interested in work by Indian-American writers & actors, like family sagas about tradition vs. new culture, relevant yet heartwarming tale

Don't see it if Don't care about Indian-Americans culture & assimilation, don't like large family sagas, don't want reminders of tragic current events

Entertaining, Relevant, Funny, Confusing, Resonant

See it if you enjoy watching strong, independent women who know what they want out of life.

Don't see it if You don't agree that people who are "ethnic" should be treated with empathy.

Relevant, Funny, Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Quirky

See it if You enjoy culture or movies like "Bend it like Beckham." Anyone who is remotely brown....indian decent or a big family, it's very relatable.

Don't see it if You dont care for super dramatic acting. Or if your not comfortable with loud boisterous culture.

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Well staged and acted, Entertaining, Confusing

See it if you want something that is ultimately uplifting, albeit sometimes confusing. Relevant to the news [Oct.-Nov 2018]. Plus a dance number.

Don't see it if you feel that second and third generation offspring of immigrants are still foreigners.

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Absorbing, Intelligent, Slow

See it if Touching exploration of the Punjabi-American Sikh community in Wisconsin. Gives a look at a little-understood group.

Don't see it if The storylines don't completely make sense. Things are dropped, never to be picked up again. The shocking event may seem contrived.

Ambitious, Disappointing, Confusing, Quirky, Thought-provoking

See it if You are intrigued by cultural differences and want to gain knowledge of how to effectively deal with prejudice and scapegoating. While the

Don't see it if You dislike culturally specific plays that try too hard to convey a message about acceptance. Definitely not your typical musical.

Also play is noteworthy, the playwright seems to try too hard to get her me... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Relevant, Fun

See it if you enjoy comedies with a serious message and learning about other cultures.

Don't see it if no reason not to see it!

Relevant, Ambitious, Refreshing, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if You like theater dealing with issues involving the immigrant experience.

Don't see it if You are not interested in issues affecting the lives of immigrants from the Punjab area of northern India.

Thought-provoking, Topical

See it if you want to see a show that especially resonants with today's shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue. The ending makes you think.

Don't see it if you want to be thoroughly engaged throughout the play. Some scenes, especially the one in the bar, are riveting; others are not.

Also The talk back added much especially when the actor playing Tim, Nate M... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Resonant, Engaging, Interesting writing, Uneven produciton

See it if Comic drama with many engaging moments and insights into Punjabi community. Theater lovers should support this kind of work...flaws and all.

Don't see it if You want a flawless play, or light entertainment. Show has ups and downs, but it's inventive and message especially resonant today.

Ambitious, Great acting, Great writing, Quirky, Resonant

See it if you want to understand the bonds that a family can hold. Interesting peek into the lives of American Sikhs.

Don't see it if you don't like plays about families that are different than yours.

Relevant, Intelligent, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to explore the experiences and prejudices of the immigrant experience and their american born children

Don't see it if You don’t want to have to think & feel during and after a play

Intelligent, Overrated, Slow, Resonant, Entertaining

See it if Wonderful to see a culture represented on stage that is rarely shown- great and fun Bollywood dance scene and dream scapes.

Don't see it if confusing and slow plot with uneven actors really holds back what could have been a great bit of theater.

Cliched, Slow, Over-indulgent

See it if you are interested how immigrants and their kids assimilate and handle stress

Don't see it if you saw bend it like beckham and want a fresh new plot; or want a real exploration of hate crimes... this does neither

Disappointing, Confusing, Ambitious, Uneven

See it if you want to see more about hate in America mixed with celebration, some humor, coming of age, and moralizing

Don't see it if You like a coherent play that is not overly ambitious.

Muddled, Moralizing, Underdeveloped, Ambitious, Disappointing

See it if of Punjabi descent or interested in Sikh culture as is portrayed in Wisconsin.

Don't see it if play is poorly presented. Consist of Punjabi cultural acceptance in uneven and moralizing style. There is garish pirate scene to dodge.

Entertaining, Cliched

See it if Enjoy immigration and cross-cultural themes.

Don't see it if Don't like sows that are slightly hokey.

Ambitious, Slow, Disappointing, Relevant

See it if you want to see a slow, didactic depiction of an American family seen through a loud, colorful Punjabi lens. I'm glad I went.

Don't see it if you are not interested in a talky, did I say slow, story with a Pirate metaphor that really never works.

Also But there are moments here that I think are successful, Some of the di... Read more Read less

Disappointing, Quirky, Resonant, Earnest, Unfocused

See it if / to meet and come to care about the members of a close Indian-American family and their loved ones.

Don't see it if you wish to see a well-drawn, poignant "dramedy." This one falls flat.

Also The characters and subject matter are definitely worth putting on stag... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (17)