Irving — What has four times the population in a third of the space of the United States?
MainStage Irving-Las Colinas knows the answer and is sharing it in a collaboration with ThinkIndia: Rang De! Color Me India! It’s billed as “An immersion in the diversity of India,” but with a culture this rich and history this long, there’s barely time to scratch the surface.
But they have fun trying.
The show concept and artistic direction is attributed to Anisha Srinivasan, Shatarupa Purohit, Shibani Limaye, Malti Srinivasan, Radhika Ganesh and Ravi Srinivasan. The performers are equally vast, but unspecified in the program. Nevertheless, you’ll get to know them through the course of the intermissionless show.
You may even have a favorite or two. Probably more.
The framing device concerns an American of India descent who has been encouraged to visit India to rediscover his heritage. He meets an “overly helpful man” who will guide him and us in the many quirks and customs of the country. It’s not a Bollywood script per se, but he does become enamored with a girl from afar and spend most of the rest of the time looking for her. It enables us to move from location to location and song to song easily. Scenically, this is accomplished through projections (video by Vijay Gurow) and some rolling units courtesy of set designer Dane Tuttle and lighting designer Jacob Hughes.
Though the opening voice over and café scene with its homage to Stomp! may give you pause, the evening quickly finds its feet when it sets its sight on traditional dances. Choreography comes courtesy of the shows creators with additional contributions from Krishnaveni Putrevu, Amulya Thatachar and Kiku Chaudhuri. The classical dance traditions of Kathak, Odissi, Bharata Natyam are utterly charming. Costume designers Shatarupa Purohit and Radhika Ganesh match the complexities and precision of the dances with equally beautiful, traditional garb.
But it’s not all song and dance.
There’s a section of Yoga that engages in some visual trickery. Not to be outdone, the section on the various faith traditions includes a projection of a light box sand painting by Komal Nadkarni and Shraddha Dharia. As family groupings take places on stage, above them is an ever-evolving depiction of tenets of their religion. The tone is reverent and the message of peaceful coexistence is palpable. In the category of visual feasts, a festival of Holi (where they throw great clouds of colored powder in the air) should to take top billing. Unfortunately, the confines of a theatre mean that their exuberance must be restrained to small amounts of powder.
The comedic parts of the evening find their pinnacle in a lesson in haggling in the marketplace. People with experience in this area (like my son’s Nepalese friend who attended with us) laughed in recognition at the tactics of getting a good deal from the local purveyors of clothes, jewelry and trinkets. The pinnacle of musical performance follows closely with a sing-along of traditional song and dance from different regions of the subcontinent.
The audience leapt to their feet at the end, partially out of appreciation, but possibly to get to the stalls of traditional food waiting in the lobby.
Oh, and to try out their newfound haggling skills, as well.