Regional Theater Review: SAMSARA (Chance Theater)

Post image for Regional Theater Review: SAMSARA (Chance Theater)

by Tony Frankel on May 15, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


A loving, liberal, and somewhat quirky childless couple, Craig and Katie, discovers that the only option to have their own baby is to implant her egg and his sperm in another woman. But fertilization in the States is pricey, so the surrogate mother will be Indian. The rented womb belongs to Saraiya, who badly desires to be a doctor. When the big day arrives, the socially awkward Craig journeys to India alone while Katie, for reasons we will discover later, refuses to fly and stays home. She becomes a bit stir crazy and fantasizes about an accordion-playing Louis Jordan-like Frenchman who woos her and lends her his sultry, sexy ear. And even though Craig and Saraiya become chummy while waiting for the labor day, she subsists by conversing with her own imaginary being: her yet-to-be-born baby that appears as a bumptious teenage boy.

James McHale and Jennifer Ruckman in SAMSARA at The Chance Theater.

Director Benjamin Kamine had the odds stacked against him in this west coast premiere at Chance Theater. Having previously been produced at Victory Gardens, one of Chicago’s most prestigious theaters, Lauren Yee’s likeable play has a scattered journey and tacked-on destination, but I’m surprised it didn’t get the rewrite it deserves. The screwball, Story Theater presentationalism can be relentlessly cute, and every time a scene change lagged, it gave me a moment to wonder where the adventures of Craig and Katie were going. Instead of plumbing the depths of East-West relations or Saraiya’s feminist woes or the unquenchable need to replicate in an over-consuming world, Samsara glosses over these issues and becomes merely a distracting evening of theater.

James McHale, Jennifer Ruckman and Anisha Adusumilli in SAMSARA at The Chance Theater.

While the better part of this one-act is affectedly quaint, sentimental, silly, and skin-deep, Samsara offers an emotionally twisting denouement; yet I pondered as to what there was to get out of this experience. It manages to divert and entertain but ends up as a bulky amalgam of trivial comedy meets bleak certainty. In addition, key information must have fled by me, because we are told that Craig’s sperm will be used, but later discover that he’s sterile. And something else took me out of the play: It doesn’t make sense that Katie, played delightfully in a Helen Huntish manner by Jennifer Ruckman, doesn’t go to India to pick up her child. Her fear of flying may prove to be well-founded, but it’s hard to take her concerns seriously while she fleetingly flirts with a fake Frenchman.

Jason Paul Evans and Jennifer Ruckman in SAMSARA at The Chance Theater.

photos by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio

Ray Parikh and Anisha Adusumilli in SAMSARA at The Chance Theater.

Chance Theater
5522 E. La Palma Ave in Anaheim
ends on March 31, 2015 EXTENDED to June 7, 2015
for tickets, call 714.777.3033 or visit Chance

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