Writer: Ravi Jain and Asha Jain
Director: Ravi Jain
Reviewer: Joan Phillips
Welcoming the audience as we enter the theatre space with open arms and delicious, warm samosas, Ravi Jain and Asha Jain immediately make us feel at home as they seat themselves around their family dining table. The son of successful, immigrant Indian parents, Ravi was born and raised in Toronto. Proud of their heritage, Ravi was brought up surrounded by Indian culture and the community of immigrants his parents built around them, making them his extended family.
If only Ravi had wanted to be a doctor and get married, he wouldn’t be tormenting his parents so much, and so, the scene is set for this very funny evening in the company of Ravi and his mother, Asha. Speaking with obvious fondness for each other, Ravi starts to tell the story from when he was 27 with ambitions to start a theatre school, just at the point his parents thought he should be joining the family business and getting married.
The clash of cultures and expectations for immigrants and their locally born children is well-trod ground. But this is also a story about the conflicts that arise between generations and cultures and the benign (or otherwise) ways parents seek to influence their children’s choices and the invisible cultural pressures that support them. Here, even their accents and choice of clothes underline the contrast in the way they carry culture and differences. Asha is unapologetically, heavily accented and wears a full sari. Ravi, easily swapping between Indian and Canadian accents, wears a loose-fitting Indian tunic over his western jeans.
This is a delightful, humorous double-act as the two recount their painful clash from the past. Ravi’s respect for his culture and love for his parents is obvious, as are his frustrations with the meddling as their attempts to ambush him into a marriage become more outrageous and comic. Ravi keeps his story-telling style honestly endearing and avoids rancour or victimhood. Asha’s mischievous interruptions, scolding and shockingly manipulative ruses are on full display. However, her genuine love for her son is never in doubt. As she points, out what is the difference between the files of bio data his parents secretly build on prospective brides and the use of dating apps in western culture. Ravi does his best to resist. But, as he points out, it is hard when it feels like the whole of India is urging him to get married.
Occasionally the delivery falters which interrupts the intimacy and naturalness of the flow, yet the real-life on-stage partnering of mother and son and their mutual affection cover over any cracks quickly. However, the success of this production comes from laying bare such painful conflicts without over simplifying and offering easy solutions. The answer to the obvious question is not going to be revealed in this review but it creates some real tension.
Cleverly, with both characters so likeable, the audience can’t fall on one side of the argument or the other. There may be no resolution to their differing outlooks, yet we laugh with them so much, whether they show us who is right or wrong really isn’t the most important thing.
Runs until 20 May 2017 | Image: Cylla von Tiedemann