Theatre: Red Betty Theatre (Hamilton, ON)
Playwright: Radha S. Menon
Director: Wes Berger
Cast: Brittany Miranda, Dia Frid, Ellora Patnaik, Maya Huliyappa-Menon, Tony Sciara, Vivek Hariharan, Sindhuri Nandhakumar
Show Type: Comedy, Drama
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Reviewed by Daniel O.W. Smith
Rukmini’s Gold explores a kind of heritage not bound by any one place – that of an immigrant family, sprung from India across continents including our own. This play’s dense, generation-spanning collage of experiences starts by introducing us to cranky, sweet, old Rukmini (Dia Frid) at Samsara Station, 1960.
Samsara is, according to Wikipedia, in fact a particular concept of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, a cycle significant to the teachings of several major faiths with origins in South Asia. That the play opens in a place called Samsara speaks to its exploration of the relationship between origin and identity, and how time can somehow seem to simultaneously erode and strengthen the bridge between them.
When a mysterious, irritating youngster (Sindhuri Nandhakumar) shows up and begins teasing the amusingly grumpy Rukmini, it ends up setting off a paroxysm of recollections from both before and after 1960. We witness the evolution of identities, as a family is rearranged by colonialism and late 19th- and early 20th-century industrial development. With a series of interactions at train stations across the globe, Rukmini’s Gold manages to touch on cultural preservation and assimilation, sex, love, maturity, class, caste, and more.
There are relatively few cast members for the large number of characters, with most appearing in multiple different guises at different points throughout the show, but all of the actors do an admirable job of conveying singular personalities. It’s a feat to avoid audience confusion in a play that addresses this much, and designer Kelly Wolf surely deserves some of the credit for a colorful, memorable, and meaningful array of unique costumes.
Bring sharp ears to this performance. The subject matter here is deep and diverse, and both deserves and demands a keen listen. Where you may miss dates or dialogue, the strong performances will fill the gap, with cast member Ellora Patnaik nearly drawing audible cheers for an impressive monologue full of emotional complexity and accents that switch on a dime.
This is professional-level theatre, more than worth the low ($10) ticket price.
Daniel O.W. Smith is a writer and editor who lives in Hamilton and comes from Maine. Feel free to get in touch at ,<a target=”_blank” href=”mailto:email@example.com”>firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
For more information and show times visit http://hamiltonfringe.ca/