by Lynn on May 29, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Streetcar Crowsnest Theatre, Toronto, Ont. Playing until June 16.

Written by Zahida Rahemtulla

Directed by Paolo Santalucia

Set and lighting by Ken Mackenzie

Costumes by Ming Wong

Sound by Jacob Lin

Cast: Bren Eastcott

Zaittun Esmail

Nimet Kanji

Vijay Mehta

Salim Rahemtulla

Sharjil Rasool

Pamela Mala Sinha

Parm Soor

Sugith Varughese

From the play information: “Bashir Ladha, a bohemian philosophy podcaster, finds himself unwittingly thrust into the spotlight when he is chosen to assume a distinguished religious position that his parents have eagerly accepted on his behalf. Before Bashir can object, two committee representatives are at his door to congratulate him. As the representatives start to suspect a mistake has been made, Bashir’s jubilant grandparents and relatives arrive to commemorate the honour. A charming farce ensues, prompting questions around whether the seemingly wrong Bashir may, in fact, be the right one.”

This is the debut by Zahida Rahemtulla and looks “ at values passed down through generations, the ties of community, and how we are shaped by those who love us most— even when we try to run away from them.”

The Wrong Bashir deals with generational issues within families, Bashir (Sharjil Rasool) and his father Sultan (Sugith Varughese) are always at odds. Sultan had to give up an opportunity to go to university to help his family financially. He became a bus driver for the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission). Sultan does not want Bashir to squander his chances at a better life, which involves university. Bashir wants to go his own way and, in a way, looks down on his father’s lost chances. Each is disappointed in the other, but neither of them talks to the other to set any record straight.

While this situation is particular to this family, anyone watching the play would see resonance in their own experience—hence the beauty of theatre to bridge our similarities and connect us. I loved how the various characters peppered their English dialogue with particular expressions in their own dialect. Translation was not necessary because one never feels left out of information in the main. But I loved hearing the roar of approval and knowledge by the South Asian audience I was with.  That’s also part of the joy of seeing theatre that is outside one’s experience—to hear how others who know, react to an expression or situation. Wonderful.

Director Paolo Santalucia has created an energetic production that realizes the heightened emotions of the characters. As Bashir, Sharjil Rasool beautifully conveys the ennui, angst, and concern of Bashir when he thinks he might have to accept this honour. This is a young man who knows the truth about his situation, which he can’t share with his family because they would be so disappointed. And it’s to writer Zahida Rahemtulla’s credit that the emotion was ramped up for Bashir.

As Sultan, Sugith Varughese brings a quiet dignity to his role. Sultan is at odds with Bashir, wants the best for him, and is frustrated that they can’t see eye to eye. Varughese is quietly resigned about his situation but has the dignity to know he made the right decision in his life. Sultan is a calming influence in that family, a thoughtful presence. Nimet Kanji plays Najma, the mother of the family. She is a worrier, a bit mournful and tends to see the dark side of a situation. She is quite funny in her mournfulness.  As Nafisa, the daughter, Bren Eastcott realizes Nafisa’s independence, smarts and resolve. She knows her brother and does not hesitate to try and clearly set him straight.

Gulzar (Pamela Mala Sinha) is a family friend, and it seems the community gossip. She knows everything and spreads what she knows to one and all, whether it’s true or not. Pamela Mala Sinha plays her with impish understatement, although she is the only character in traditional garb, that is colourful and arresting. You are never in doubt as to who wants to be the centre of attention. It’s a delicious performance.

What a brave, huge accomplishment for Zahida Rahemtulla to create a play with nine characters, all lively, well drawn and members of the Ismaili community, which one rarely sees on a mainstream stage. Such a welcome addition. Sweet, charming, funny and loving.

Crow’s Theatre presents:

Plays until June 16, 2024.

Running time: 2 hours (with one Intermission)

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Saarah June 1, 2024 at 7:18 pm

Just saw the play… absolutely loved it. It portrays Ismaili family values with humour and charm. It would be amazing to see this as a TV show!