Theater Review: THE CHRONICLES OF KALKI (Moxie Theatre in San Diego)

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by Milo Shapiro on May 15, 2023

in Theater-Regional,Theater-San Diego


First, a little history lesson:  In the Hindu religion, the god Vishnu incarnated ten times as different “avatara,” which can be interpreted different ways, including “descendent.”  The final incarnation, calling himself Kalki, came to end a long period of darkness, degeneration, and chaos. While knowing this is not critical to following Aditi Brennan Kapil’s play, The Chronicles of Kalki, it might help to appreciate it. And given how abstract the play is, it would be hard to give you much more assistance going in.

The two primary characters of the play never share their actual names, but as Kalki (Farah Dinga) nicknames them “Meat” (Kailey Agpaoa) and “Betty” (Mikaela Rae Macias), they will be referenced as such here.

The play bounces back and forth between the present and recent events in Meat and Betty’s life. In the present, “Cop,” our unnamed policeman (Javier Guerrero), questions Meat and Betty in separate rooms about what happened on a given day. In the recent past, we get glimpses of those few bizarre days, supposedly as the girls are detailing them to Cop. The girls are less than forthcoming with him, sharing factors that, to his frustration, seem ludicrous and unrelated. These details serve to let us in on the strange world where the new girl in school, Kalki, has befriended the two very-different on-and-off-again friends. The two unpopular misfits don’t quite like each other but have come together because it’s better than being completely alone in their harsh school of bullies.

If Kalki the god was supposed to bring an end to chaos, it seems no one told the outspoken, troublemaking, border-pushing version who comes to the girls’ high school. She is divisive, unruly, and gets into both of their heads, luring them to take actions that wouldn’t normally come to them. Is she just a rowdy girl … or something more?  And, back to the present day with Cop, where is she now?

The edgy, disjointed story might not satisfy, were it not for four excellent performers, who commit so strongly to their struggles. Still, it mostly rests on the perfectly cast Farah Dinga, whose vitriol, self-righteousness, and powerful underlying allure unleashes a masculine fortitude that is still clearly female in essence. We are as easily beguiled by Kalki as the high schoolers are, whether we like her or not.

Desireé Clark Miller’s direction, with lovely ultra-simple touches by scenic designer Divya Murthy Kumar, creates an other-worldliness that suits the tone.

The play is very non-linear, which could easily frustrate some and delight others. Not everything is answered, nor does Ms. Kapil really seem to care to. The revelations and transformations of Meat and Betty matter far more, especially as the storyline grows darker. It’s a bit Twilight Zone, though one could imagine Rod Serling’s eyes bugging at topics the Zone could include sixty years later.

As such, it’s difficult whether or not to recommend this show. Some will balk, claiming it doesn’t all tie together enough; others will love just being along on Meat and Betty’s internal journey. As such, it’s a risky production and credit goes to Moxie for giving this unusual script its due. Here’s to hoping that the kind of people who would appreciate it come, such that these strong performances get a good run.

photos by Daren Scott

The Chronicles of Kalki
Moxie Theatre
6663 El Cajon Blvd. Suite N in San Diego
Thurs at 7:30; Fri & Sat at 8; Sun at 2
ends on June 4, 2023
for tickets, call 858-598-7620 or visit Moxie Theatre

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