by Lynn on February 4, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following two reviews were broadcast Friday, February 3, 2012 on CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 FM: VISITING MR. GREEN at the Jane Mallet Theatre and A BRIMFUL OF ASHA at the Tarragon Extra Space.

The host was Rose Palmieri.

1) Good Friday morning. It’s time for a few theatre reviews from Lynn Slotkin, our Theatre Critic and Passionate Playgoer.

Hi Lynn

What do you have for us today?

I have two plays about different cultures within cultures; old fashioned traditions of the parents or elders and the modern traditions of their children.

First VISITING MR. GREEN by Jeff Baron (1996). VISITING ME GREEN is a sweet, uncomplicated predictable play about Mr. Green, an 86-year-old irascible, prejudiced New York Jewish widower and Ross Gardiner, a 30 year old New Yorker who has to do community service by visiting Mr. Green once a week.

A BRIMFUL OF ASHA is about a mother (Asha) and son (Ravi) of South Asian decent. Asha was born in India and adhered to the tradition of the arranged marriage and wants to do the same for her son. Her son Ravi was born in Toronto and he believes that he should marry when he wants to whom he wants without interference from his parents, in particular his mother.

2) Ok that was a brief synopsis of each. Let’s have the details. VISITING MR. GREEN first. Why is Ross doing community service? Why is Mr. Green so irascible?

Ross nearly hit Mr. Green with his car. Ross says Mr. Green walked into traffic without looking. Mr. Green says he did look, but Ross says he did but only after he just charged into traffic. No matter, the judge sentences Ross to 6 months of community service in the form of weekly visits to Mr. Green to see that he’s ok; buy him food; tend to his needs.

Mr. Green is a grieving widower. His wife of 59 years has died and he just doesn’t know how to fend for himself. He tells Ross they had no children. His apartment is a mess. He probably doesn’t eat regularly and he doesn’t go and shop. Neighbours help out.

Over time truths are told; secrets shared; and prejudices and hurts revealed between the two. Ross is gay and he is desperate to hide I from his parents or his employers. He has a good job at American Express. Mr. Green can’t understand what gay means. Ross says, “a homosexual”. Mr. Green—nothing….finally Ross says, “a feigeleh”?? A derogatory Yiddish expression for ‘gay’. Ross is Jewish. Mr. Green can’t believe it. According to him, a Jewish man can’t be a feigeleh! Over time Mr. Green can believe that Ross is gay and it doesn’t matter.

An aside: I wondered when this play was set. There is no reference to cell phones. And Ross works for American Express? I would have expected him to be a callow stock broker. But I digress.

VISITING MR. GREEN is a gentle play and really not very deep. It’s got hot button topics: gays; a prejudiced Jewish man who is easily wounded. It gives the impression of dealing with deep questions but really it’s quite simple. You can see the conclusion a mile off and it comes rather abruptly. Lots of details seem to happen off stage instead of in the play.


It is the real life story of Ravi Jain and his mother Asha Jain. Ravi Jain is a theatre force of nature. He was educated internationally. He’s is a celebrated actor, director, educator, producer, arts activist and the artistic director of Why Not Theatre.

He was invited to do a workshop in India which laid the ground work for this play.

Asha Jain is Ravi’s mother. She is not a theatre professional, but she is a natural. Her main job, besides taking care of her husband and older son, is to get Ravi settled and married. Mrs. Jain and her husband considered Ravi’s trip to India as a perfect opportunity to send the word out and try and arrange a marriage.

The word was sent out to various respectable families with marriage-eligible young women, to arrange a meeting to find him a wife. Ravi was mortified.

He told them he wanted to get married, eventually, but not now. He had formed his own theatre company and was busy with that. It would be unfair to both his possible future wife and him to be distracted by marriage. And besides, he wanted to pick his own wife and not be involved in an arranged marriage.

His mother reminded him that her marriage to his father was arranged and that when they married she hardly knew him. As of Jan. 28 they have been married 38 years and she says she loves her husband more every day.

A BRIMFUL OF ASHA is a retelling of the story of Ravi Jain’s trip to India, his parents’ many and various plans to find him a nice girl to marry, and Ravi’s many and various ways of avoiding all the interference.

It is also a kind of debate between him—who wants to live his own life and find his own wife but still be respectful to his parents and their traditions—and his mother, Asha, who wants Ravi settled and feels it is her duty to find him a wife to accomplish that—and of course to prove him wrong in his thinking.

4) VISITING MR. GREEN seems the more traditional play of the two. How does it do as a production?

The set by Cameron Porteous is properly dingy as you would expect of a man mired in the past. It’s full of papers and junk that Mr. Green has not picked up.

Director Jen Shuber has some nice touches. The wife has been dead some months yet Mr. Green is still mourning as if he is sitting Shiva—the mirror is still covered. And I like the way she has directed both Theodore Bikel as Mr. Green and Aidan deSalaiz as Ross. There is a growing intimacy between the two because of her direction; a gentleness.

As Mr. Green, Theodore Bikel, is masterful. His timing is impeccable. He knows the value of silence and stillness in setting up a joke. And he’s absolutely serious when he floats a laugh line.

As Ross Gardiner, Aidan deSalaiz is not masterful. His acting is obvious and even leaden at times.

VISITING MR. GREEN is unchallenging fare that is emotionally manipulative, and will tug at the heartstrings of some. The rest of us will be dry-eyed.

5) And A BRIMFUL OF ASHA. How did it do as a production to tell the story?

What is particularly charming about this charming show is the joy that mother and son have in each other’s company. They both greet the audience as we file in past them. He, smiling a warm smile that would melt icebergs; introducing himself; shaking hands with everyone who passes by; offering everyone a samosa; and proudly introducing his mother; protective of her; she, also smiling, wearing a beautiful sari, greets all who pass by warmly, lots of hand shakes. When the show starts Ravi introduces the premise.

His mother has her turn saying she is not an actress, so we should be understanding if she forgets her lines. (She forgets nothing—she is after all, a mother). There is easy banter between the two.

Ravi details the various places he went on his trip to India; how his parents seemed to be there every step of the way; the various young women he met, all arranged, out of respect for his parents; his frustration at this and finally his anger at the lengths to which his parents were going to meddle in his life.

The premise is interesting—a melding of two worlds; his modern, contemporary world in which adults should live their own lives and pick their own partners; and her traditional world in which parents arrange their children’s lives and marriages.

Asha is not above using a little emotional blackmail—she says she will not live long and his being settled and married will help her leave this world a contented mother.

She doesn’t define what she calls ‘settled’, nor does he ask what it is about his happy life that would suggest he isn’t settled.

A BRIMFUL OF ASHA is a sweet show about an age old problem that is part of every culture everywhere—parents wanting to get the kids settled with good marriages that they want to help arrange, and the kids opposing that idea. It stars two wonderful performers who obviously love and respect each other to bits.

Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can check Lynn’s blog at www.

VISITING MR. GREEN plays at the Jane Mallet Theatre until February 18.

A BRIMFUL OF ASHA plays at the Tarragon Extra Space until February 19.

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