Photo by Michael Lamont
East West Players' world premiere production of A Widow of No Importance is funny, light, and tackles a non-traditional romance (no spoilers!). The first review I read accuses it of being a sitcom. Well, if it is, it is an extremely well-written one at that. Filled to the brim with sparkling dialogue and quickly-paced back-and-forths, I was sorry that I was laughing so hard that I missed some of the fine writing.
The performers are of an incredibly high standard with all of the cast turning in inspired and full-bodied performances. Playwright-actress Lina Patel plays the titular character, a widow who prefers confinement-by-condo to living. She sticks to the role of a widow and a mother to her children and the lonely neighbor across the hall. Patel grounds the production with believability and her presence sets the tone for the other actors to blend with her. All four of her supporting cast -- Parvesh Cheena, Sunil Malhotra, Puja Mohindra, and Anjali Bhimani -- grab the reins of the script and never let go, throwing in wonderful nuances and incredible gusto.
While watching the show, you want to go up there and shake them to say, “Do you know much how fun you’re providing me? Do you know how good you are?” That’s a source of one problem that I had with the production with Cheena playing three roles. An outstanding comic and personality, Cheena makes such an impression with his tics and verve that it’s somewhat distracting to see him play another character. I never forget that it’s him. Contrast this to, say, Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor where the audience either didn’t know it was him playing all the characters or that fact was a marketing facet for the movie. Because Cheena was so good, it took me out of being involved with the story to notice his comedic talent.
But we’re nitpicking here.
Most important is the inclusion of a Desi production in the season. The cast and director, Shaheen Vaaz, are all Desi Americans, and writer Shane Sakhrani is Indian with Hong Kong roots. Spotlighting a story of an upper class family in India is a window most important, especially with the majority of East Asian stories that are told.
I read a comment where EWP artistic director, Tim Dang, said that the theater was returning to more safe content compared to last season. Most readers thought that this meant 'boring.' If this is an indication of what is yet to come for EWP’s season, I’ll take this kind of so-called boring in spoonfuls.
A Widow of No Importance runs from September 8 to October 9 at The David Henry Hwang Theater at the Union Center for the Arts. Click here for tickets.
The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!