A Play That Tries to Be Deep But Is Actually Just Your Regular Psychodrama

Dileep Rao, left, and Monika Jolly in Shiv
Dileep Rao, left, and Monika Jolly in Shiv
Photo by Ed Krieger

“What is time for if not to be confused?” spouts the koan-prone, eponymous, South Asian–American heroine (played by Monika Jolly) of Shiv, playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil’s politically pointed and somewhat exasperating memory play. “Everything is now,” the character later cryptically declares.

And while she is alluding to Indian metaphysical philosophy — which, along with the wounding chauvinist legacy of Western colonialism, forms Shiv’s thematic tapestry — the woman might well be fingering the drama’s bewildering narrative tangle.

The play freely collapses Shiv’s idolizing childhood memories of Bapu (Dileep Rao), her beloved immigrant Punjabi-poet dad (based on Kapil’s own father), with scenes charting the curiously charmless romance between the adult Shiv and the grandson (James Wagner) of the patrician publisher (Leonard Kelly-Young) she blames for Bapu’s dissolute fall from grace.

When unscrambled, the story pans out as little more than a conventional psychodrama of filial disillusionment embroidered by Kapil’s penchant for flowery imagery. Director Emilie Beck throws some production values at the deficits (Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s nautical set; Tom Ontiveros’ sky projections) only to be defeated by the enervating passivity of a fatally underwritten protagonist and Jolly’s emotionally truncated performance.

Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; through Aug. 9. (626) 683-6883, bostoncourt.com.


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