This new work from Théâtre du Soleil follows the adventures of a touring French theater company stranded in India without a director while the world around them falls into disarray. More…
What is the role of theater and art in a world dominated by terrorism and hostility? Performed by 35 multinational actors, this show explores Eastern and Western drama and features a special performance of Terukkuttu—a traditional form of theater practiced in South India. The production touches on pressing issues that societies around the globe are currently facing, from terrorism and religious extremism to climate change and gender equality. The end result is an exploration of how to talk about the chaos of a world that has become incomprehensible.
Performed in French, English, and Tamil, along with some Arabic, Japanese, Russian; English supertitles are presented throughout.
“There are allusions to Shakespeare, Noh, and Chekhov, making ‘A Room in India’ feel like a family meeting of the world's theatrical traditions, gathered to discuss Syria, terrorism, resurgent nationalism, the abuse of women, and environmental degradation...The company brings an undeniably French spirit to the stage, unbound by political correctness and unashamed of liberalism...Théâtre du Soleil has created a play that is as messy, chaotic, and unpredictable as the real world.” Full Review
“There is something especially anarchic and encompassing about ‘A Room in India’. It sometimes feels like watching a chicken dance with its head cut off...Though the work’s structure is comically recursive, eventually the visions point more insistently toward one subject and one style. The subject is the disempowerment of women, especially in Indian and Arab cultures...In Ms. Mnouchkine’s imagination, and maybe finally ours, the theater is a woman, and so is the world.” Full Review
"Mnouchkine's new devised piece runs wild in a pell-mell pageant of comedy, anxiety, and artistic self-doubt...The centerpieces of this production are gorgeously ornate musical numbers depicting scenes from the Mahabharata, performed in the Terukkuttu tradition...'A Room in India' is a defense of theater in the age of ISIS, and it is acutely aware of how defensive that looks...Nearly four hours of mind-scrambling spectacle.” Full Review
“These fevered scenes are performed with mesmeric detail...So much so that we may be seduced into overlooking the sophistication of the enterprise...The long first act flies by swiftly while the second, shorter act, has its longueurs, and the bitter irony of the ending...may be lost on some. That seems, in retrospect, like nitpicking, as Mnouchkine and her astonishing troupe continue to make theater of unsettling immediacy and resonant power.” Full Review
"In keeping with Mnouchkine’s wide-reaching, allusory style, the show is in conversation with myriad other works of art...Cornelia’s questions and Mnouchkine’s are one and the same, and 'A Room in India' is at its strongest when it doesn’t answer them but simply lets them multiply...It’s a courageous demonstration of vulnerability, of empathetic uncertainty, from an artist whose emeritus status has done nothing to flatten her sense of curiosity, nor dull her sense of humor." Full Review
"The quality of the piece and its power are equally undeniable. Of the Théâtre du Soleil works that I’ve seen, I would frankly call this one of the less-satisfying ones. Its loose structure and predictable rhythm can have a slightly lulling effect...Mnouchkine’s less-satisfying work is so far superior to the best our quotidian theaters can offer that every moment here is like a masterpiece: perfectly composed visually, perfectly executed musically and dramatically." Full Review
"'A Room In India' may seem overly ambitious in its frenetic attempt to satirize so many societal crimes, but like Molière, Mnouchkine’s hysterical stage does not serve as a window to an absurd world, it serves as a mirror...Although 'A Room in India' provides a great history of French theatre in the form of social satire, it becomes hard to laugh when faced with such a devastating reality...This is a fascinating and intellectual production and should not be missed." Full Review
"Hélène Cinque, a marvelous actress who carries the play on her shoulders with calm, humor and a quiet charisma...All the actors were brilliant and totally immersed in the play, a hallmark of Mnouchkine’s direction. A minor criticism is that there is far too much slapstick and bathroom humor in 'A Room in India'...Perhaps it’s a European sensibility, but it becomes distracting...Also, a violently melodramatic ending came as a shock." Full Review
"It’s chaotically and delightfully helter-skelter. And yes, it’s longer than it needs to be. Towards the end, it does become repetitive. Moreover, when Mnouchkine decides it’s time to bring every last dervish-y thing to a conclusion, she utters a superfluous platitude the message of which won’t be revealed here. Nonetheless, this is Ariane Mnouchkine, one of the globe’s greatest living theater icons. When the opportunity arises to take her in and take her on, passing it up is a foolish choice." Full Review
See it if You are a fan of Mnouchkine's Theatre du Soleil which specializes in a unique brand of spectacle, here with a multi-global troupe of actors.
Don't see it if you object to fragmented, episodic material about the meaning of theater in world's current state and historically-must like Indian music.
See it if you find Mnouchkine's theatre essential, haunting & possesses cumulative power; you appreciate epic scale and South Asian traditional forms
Don't see it if questions of cultural appropriation preoccupy you: company of 36, representing 26 nationalities, blithely traverse various genres and forms
See it if ...you want to see recent work from an acknowledged master of world theater, or if you're interested in the interaction between East & West.
Don't see it if ...you have a short attention span, or speak no French & hate having to read surtitles to understand what is going on.
See it if you like your theatre messy and chaotic. However, it is both visually and orally stunning.
Don't see it if long evenings in the theatre isn't your thing. Many walkouts at the intermission.
See it if You are interested in devised theater and orientalism [sic]. The Indian dance theater sections are amazing, the cast extremely talented.
Don't see it if You're enraged by the enduring racism of fancy European directors.
See it if You know the Mahabarata and would appreciate a pastiche of visions about Indian, Japanese and Western theatrical traditions. Love Mnouchkine
Don't see it if You don't have patience for deliberately disconnected scenes and repetitions. Couldn't tolerate four hours without much of a narrative line.
See it if You like challenging theater that asks is theater relevant? Can you make fun of terrorists? Does Terukkutu still have the power to move us?
Don't see it if You aren't willing to spend 4 hours reading subtitles and listening to foreign actors struggle with English in a loosely structured format.
See it if With the reputation of the Director that I expected better. Great India Epic stories but also the usual suspects of the Muslims. Go figure.
Don't see it if You want linear story and the dream sequences kept on interrupting by the phone rings and bathroom breaks.
See it if You like experimental theater, like Indian music and cultural intrigue
Don't see it if You hate sitting through four hours of spiraling confusion. Edgy and fascinating for just so long. A nightmare to behold
See it if you like cirque du soleil, colorful costumes, and busy stage.
Don't see it if you like to have a plot to follow. Also, if you are annoyed by cultural stereotypes this show has a plenty.
See it if you like social commentaries, slapstick, reflection on the creative process, traditional Indian dance, experimental theater.
Don't see it if you don't like experimental theater, you want a story that is more profound.
See it if you have never seen a piece by Ariane Mnouchkine and the Théátre du Soleil
Don't see it if you've seen Mnouchkine's previous work. This production is a compendium of retreads of world theater techniques she has borrowed before
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