Review: Take d Milk, Nah?

by Lynn on April 15, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Theatre Passe Muraille, Toronto, Ont.

Written and performed by Jivesh Parasram

Director/dramaturge, Tom Arthur Davis

Created by Jivesh Parasram, Tom Arthur Davis and Graham Isador

Lighting by Rebecca Vandevelde

Set and costumes by Anahita Dehbonehie

 It’s a bracing, deeply thought, intellectual, comedic look at identity, marginalization and cows as seen from the point of view of Jivesh Parasram.

The Production and Comment. Jivesh Parasram is an Indo-Canadian-Hindu-Trinidadian so trying to define his identity is a bit of a challenge taken to the 4th degree. He’s a theatre practitioner, writer, performer, researcher and educator.

During the ‘lights out’ that begins the show, Parasram appears in the colourful confines of Anahita Dehbonehie’s set—a tall square space with yellow and red swaths of flowing material that hangs down from the flies. The fourth wall of the space is open, so that Parasram can address us.

In the space is a wood table on which are various things” candles, incense, a book etc. that Parasram will need. Stage left of this is a stand on which is a microphone and a laptop. He will use the laptop to create sounds and effects during the show.  He is dressed in dark pants and shoes, layered tops over each other of various lengths. A beautiful light yellow scarf is beautifully arranged over his right shoulder and around his neck.

Parasram starts by saying he hates solo shows about identity and beautifully expresses why they don’t make the grade. One realizes why because compared to those shows his are head and shoulders above them.

He uses Hindu tradition, language, history and his life experiences from travelling around so much and how it affects him to tell the story. He speaks with reverence of how a person can feel a part of a place when his/her blood mixes with the soil. He speaks about his grandfather who was a farmer in Trinidad and raised cows. Cows are sacred in the Hindu religion and Parasram carries that reverence with him. He was present at the birth of a cow. His storytelling of the event is mesmerizing and moving. His demonstration of what sound a cow in Trinidad actually makes is hilarious.

While Parasram was born in Canada, (Nova Scotia) and lived with his family in Trinidad and elsewhere, he has not actually felt as if he fit in. Others made him feel as if he was not ‘white or black enough.’ Or not Muslim when he is Hindu and a whole raft of qualifiers that does not apply. A man can feel marginalized with it all and Parasram does.

He has something deep, angry and very funny to say to this blancmange of an agreeable audience. He layers his show with intellectual, philosophical musings, complex history and humour. At times I find the information overwhelming, so the trick is to listen and hear and let the information through, but not overpower.

Parasram can tell a story, phrasing and pacing his way along to a punchline that is pure and resounding. It’s a thing of beauty to see him land a laugh-line.

Also a thing of beauty is how Parasram works the audience, first embracing them then sending a graceful dart to skewer an attitude. He says that in fact we are all Jiv—a notion in the Hindu religion that we are all one. So when he asks people in the audience who they are they went from giving their real name to saying (with gusto) they are JIV! Moments later he asks who thinks they are mainstream and who thinks they are marginalized. He does something to work on that schism (which I won’t say here), that suggests that in fact we aren’t all JIV…How Parasram works the audience to show a contradiction is fascinating.

Is he playing head games with us? Sure.  But he works us, envelopes a pointed argument in charming, self-deprecating humour and let’s the argument land. He knows how to see the humour in a fraught situation and when you least expect it, he leaves you weeping with the outcome.

Jivesh Parasram is a fascinating theatre creator in that he has four hyphenated reasons to feel marginalized. But he’s such a confident, self-deprecating, performer, obviously who has been watchful from many vantage points, that he can be blistering in his observations.

This is a solo show about identity that is light years to the forth power away from those Jivesh describes at the beginning of the show.

He has something to say about identity, marginalization, belonging and the birth of a cow. Go hear and watch him say it.

Produced by Pandemic Theatre, b current with the support of Theatre Passe Muraille.

Opened: April 12, 2018.

Closes: April 22, 2018.

Running Time: 90 minutes.

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