Los Angeles Theater Review: A NICE INDIAN BOY (East West Players)

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by G. Bruce Smith on March 1, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


A Nice Indian Boy, currently enjoying its world premiere production at East West Players, is a charming little comedy about love, marriage, culture clash and the shifting tides of public acceptance of gays. It would be a much stronger piece if the stakes for the protagonists were ratcheted up and if the two romantic leads would establish stronger chemistry.

Parents Megha and Archit Gavaskar, played by Rachna Khatau and Anjul Nigam, watching the film MILK in hopes to learn more about their gay son in the comedy A NICE INDIAN BOY  at East West Players.

The set-up is intriguing and paves the way for an interesting twist on interracial romance. Indian boy meets Caucasian boy in a Hindu temple in the San Francisco Bay Area, boys fall in love, and boys set up house together. Only the blond Caucasian boy is named Keshav Kurundkar (Christian Durso) and is more Indian than Naveen Gavaskar (the likeable Andy Gala) as he rattles off Indian folklore, prostrates in the temple, and speaks fluent Hindi. It turns out that Keshav was orphaned at a young age and adopted by an Indian couple in San Francisco.

The rest of the play, all of which takes place in the Bay Area, centers on Naveen’s and Keshav’s efforts to win the approval of Naveen’s parents of the match, its interracial component and, ultimately, their desire to marry.

Archit (center, played by Anjul Nigam) approves of the nuptials between Keshav (Christian Durso) and son Naveen (Andy Gala) in A NICE INDIAN BOY at East West Players.

This is where Madhuri Shekar’s script begins to falter a little. To begin with, Naveen’s parents (a very funny Rachna Khatau as mother Megha and a solid Anjul Nigam as father Archit) have long ago accepted their son’s homosexuality. They even watch Logo TV and films like Milk. The parents’ shock at learning the race of Keshav comes with some funny moments but even that is resolved quickly. As to the marriage issue – well, you can probably guess how that’s going to turn out.

The point is that all the obstacles in the way of happily-ever-after are not terribly difficult ones to overcome. Even the requisite split-up and reconciliation of the young lovers come very easily. Consequently, we’re not rooting with much enthusiasm for the pair. Adding to our indifference is the lack of chemistry between the two young men who don’t seem deeply vested in the relationship – or each other, for that matter. Pacing on opening night was a bit slow in places, but hopefully that will tighten as the actors settle into their roles.

Arundhathi (Mouzam Makkar), Megha (Rachna Khatau) and Naveen (Andy Gala) moments before Naveen’s wedding in A NICE INDIAN BOY at East West Players.

Nevertheless, as directed by Snehal Desai, A Nice Indian Boy is an enjoyable divertissement, with some laugh-out-loud moments, particularly from Khatau, whose comic timing is impeccable and who inhabits her well-drawn Indian mother character with gusto.

The themes of love and marriage are also nicely explored, aided by Naveen’s sassy sister Arundhathi (played to the spoiled-brat hilt by Mouzam Makkar), whose own seemingly perfect – and arranged – marriage is fraying at the edges. There are no easy answers to what constitutes love and a successful marriage, but little pearls of wisdom emerge, as when Megha responds to her daughter’s question of whether her heart “beats faster” when she’s near her husband: “Sometimes it grows bigger.”

Keshav Kurundkar played by Christian Durso and Naveen Gavaskar played by Andy Gala pray to Hindu deity Ganesh in East West Players’ A NICE INDIAN BOY.

Movable set pieces, against deep-orange backdrops with Indian-like geometric shapes, are designed by Kaitlyn Pietras and are beautifully lit by lighting designer Wen-Ling Liao. A good choice of Indian music, created by sound designer Veronika Vorel, punctuates the frequent set changes. Costume designer EB Brooks has come up with a selection of Western and South Asian wear, the latter as elegant and richly hued as expected of the country’s clothing.

All in all, A Nice Indian Boy is a nice way to spend an evening.

Mother Megha Gavaskar played by Rachna Khatau, daughter Arundhathi Rao played by Mouzam Makkar, and father Archit Gavaskar played by Anjul Nigahm in A NICE INDIAN BOY at East West Players.

photos by Michael Lamont

A Nice Indian Boy
East West Players
David Henry Hwang Theater
120 Judge John Aiso Street
scheduled to end on March 23, 2014
for tickets, call (213) 625-7000 x 20 or visit www.eastwestplayers.org

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