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A Widow of No Importance

For the second time this year, East/West Players have programmed a broad, synthetic comedy about AARP amour.

With:
With Deepa Kirpalani, Lina Patel, Vinod Thadani, Sunil Malhotra, Tara Kirpalani, Puja Mohindra, Lalitha Anjali, Bhimani Chirag, Manoj Kirpalani, Sandeep Parvesh Cheena

For the second time this year, East/West Players have programmed a broad, synthetic comedy about AARP amour. Like Paul Kikuchi’s February “Wrinkles,” Shane Sakhrani’s “A Widow of No Importance” has a Golden Ager explore unlikely late-life sexuality with a younger partner, prompting unmotivated shouting from the younger generation and unmotivated eleventh-hour changes of heart. If the company opts to return to this well a third time, it would be wise to turn over the assignment to a scribe with more interest in real-life behavior, and better gags.

“Widow” nominally takes place in Mumbai, though it might as well be London, Jackson Heights or any other Indian enclave. Shut in for two years, widow Deepa (Lina Patel) wants nothing more than marriage for rebellious daughter Tara (Puja Mohindra), who’d prefer to study creative writing in the U.S. (Couldn’t Tara have been given a career truly requiring on-campus study, like engineering or physics? She could do creative writing anywhere – not that we ever see her do so, or get a sense of her as someone devoted to self-expression.)

“When I meet the man I marry, I want magic.” “Who do you want to marry? Harry Potter?” That’s the level of wit. Sakhrani includes too little Mumbai flavor and too many on-the-nose conversations. Nothing’s ever discussed but sex, food and careers.

We learn nothing about the late husband, or what conditions in the marriage might or might not have fostered the widow’s desire for neighbor Vinod (Sunil Malhotra), a divorced accountant she initially has in mind for Tara. It turns out he has lusted after “Auntie Deepa” since he was 12, which is creepy enough but not as creepy as his and Deepa’s acting out cowgirl/cowboy fantasies in chaps, staged by Shaheen Vaaz for humiliating prurience rather than healthy eroticism.

The Indian subcontinent’s humor and rhythms are so underrepresented on U.S. stages that even this threadbare plot and cavalcade of vulgar stage business may be welcomed. But the culture, these characters and the audience all deserve better.

A Widow of No Importance

David Henry Hwang Theater, Los Angeles; 240 seats; $35 top

Production: An East/West Players presentation in association with South Asian Network and USC School of Theater of a play in two acts by Shane Sakhrani. Directed by Shaheen Vaaz. Sets, John Iacovelli; costumes, Melanie Watnick; lighting, Jose Lopez; sound, John Zalewski. Opened Sept. 14, 2011. Reviewed Sept. 22. Runs through Oct. 9. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.

Cast: With Deepa Kirpalani, Lina Patel, Vinod Thadani, Sunil Malhotra, Tara Kirpalani, Puja Mohindra, Lalitha Anjali, Bhimani Chirag, Manoj Kirpalani, Sandeep Parvesh Cheena

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