“The croaking raven doth bellow for revenge”
If possible, come see the Cary Playwrights’ Forum production of Chakra (The Wheel of Life) this weekend! This 90-minute show is a co-production of an English translation — by a Morrisville, NC woman, Dr. Vijaya Bapat, based on Vidyadahr G. Pundalik’s script — of a 40-minute one-act about the circle of revenge and forgiveness/healing. It is based on one story from the ancient Indian epic The Mahabharata, and it includes classical Indian music.
The essence of human culture is embedded in our literature. Ancient texts, such as The Mahabharata, are often considered holy, and they certainly are a gateway to truth and wisdom.
As a prologue to this episode, we were treated to a shadow puppet piece: “The Story of Draupadi, ” written by Lydia Craft Sbityakov (who also directs this production) and narrated by Snehal Bhagwat and Amarpreet Chawla. Pay close attention, because this sets the stage for the action of the play. And arm yourself with this information about the characters:
- Empress Draupadi (Seema Kukreja), wife of the Pandava brothers and daughter of King Draupad, central character
- Renuka (Bianca Michalczak): Empress Draupadi’s personal maid
- Maid (Emily Tomasik): Renuka’s assistant
- Bhimsen (Matthew Lubin): One of Draupadi’s five husbands
- Ashwathama (Greg Guiliano): Man who killed Draupadi’s sons.
The experience is enriching — it gives universal insights into human nature as well as specific insights into Indian culture, ancient and modern. We see multiple ways in which the human inclination towards revenge, rather than forgiveness and reconciliation, can be crippling. And we also see evidence of the universal human longing after eternal life and how attaining eternal life might not be as good as it seems.
Seema Kukreja gives us a Draupadi who connects well with the other characters. She has an obvious affection for Renuka. It is very easy to empathize with this character throughout.
Matthew Lubin’s Bhimsen speaks very poetically. There is a lyrical quality to lines of verse (even when translated into a different language), and Lubin’s delivery captures this.
Greg Guiliano’s Ashwathama exudes evil from the moment that he comes on the stage. Yet, we are eventually able to empathize with him as his dealing with Draupadi progresses.
Sound (engineered and operated by Praneet Athalye and Madhav Shidhaye) includes traditional Indian music, and it is quite pleasant and effective. The program also credits a violinist: Adarsh Shidhaye, and it credits Kalyanee Padhye with original music themes.
Anjali Soman designed set, costumes, and props. The costumes, in particular, were lavishly done. Everyone should have the opportunity to dress like Draupadi!
The script and the staging gives the epic feeling of Greek or English Renaissance tragedy.
Revenge is a pervasive theme in all periods of literature, giving us a plethora of perspectives on the subject. Chakra (The Wheel of Life) give us a perspective from an ancient Indian culture, still valid today.
The Department of Picky-Picky insists that we point out that the Paul Cooper Room at the Cary Arts Center has some drawbacks. Director Lydia Sbityakov overcomes most of them quite nicely.
The Verdict:This show is definitely worth seeing.
SECOND OPINION: March 1st Cary, NC Cary Citizen preview: http://carycitizen.com/2016/03/01/theater-indian-epic-this-weekend-in-cary/.
The Cary Playwrights’ Forum presents CHAKRA (THE WHEEL OF LIFE) at 7:30 p.m. March 5 and 2 p.m. March 6 at the Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Ave., Cary, North Carolina 27511.
TICKETS: $18 ($16 students, seniors, and veterans).
BOX OFFICE: http://www.caryplaywrightsforum.org/?page_id=2427.
SHOW: http://www.caryplaywrightsforum.org/?p=2506 and https://www.facebook.com/events/1557367964553502/.
PRESENTER: http://www.caryplaywrightsforum.org/, https://www.facebook.com/CaryPlaywrightsForum/, and https://twitter.com/CaryPlaywrights.
VENUE: http://www.townofcary.org/ and http://www.caryplayers.org/cary-arts-center/.
Lydia Craft Sbityakov (director): http://facebook.com/lydia.sbityakov (Facebook page).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.