Swami Vivakananda said it best. Abstract ancient practices must become living poetry in everyday life, that out of “hopelessly intricate myths must come concrete moral forms…” so that even a child might grasp it!
That is exactly what the Girish Karnad, India’s most celebrated contemporary award-winning playwright, screenwriter, film actor and director has done with his play The Fire and The Rain.
And that is what Constellation Theatre brings to the stage in a stellar production that everyone can grasp.
What seems at first a love store between Brahman youth Aravsu (Dallas tolentino) and tribal woman Nittilai (Lynette Rathnam) in the seventh year of no rain, quickly spans over many places and times, interweaving many stories of complex relationships and emotions between
friends, brothers, spouses, and parents.
Jealousy and power struggles, love and lust, sacrifice and vengeance are all familiar ingredients in modern plays but less so are the presence of gods and other supernatural creatures quite naturally walking around interacting with humans.
From the beginning there is the play within the play but as the play progresses, it follows that there are more plays within a play. At one point, Arvasu wakes from dreaming. At the end (spoiler alert) in the midst of acting in a play, the emotions of his real life overtakes his role.
And just as the play delves into eternal issues, where time does not seem to make any difference, the hero says many times that he is going to be half an hour late for something that turns out to change the fate of all involved.
There it is —the mysteries of life to be sorted out. What is real and a dream in a story? What is temporal life that is every changing circumstances versus the meaning of the unchanging state of eternity?
What becomes a myth the most is that it can be translated, recycled and con-temporized so eloquently. The story is from The Mahabharata the oldest and longest poem in human literature. The play was also adapted into an elaborate Hindi film by the same name, Agni Varsha (2002).
This staged version, a North American premiere, produced by Constellation director Allison Arkell Stockman and her creative team is the most vivid presentation yet. It appeals to not only the spiritual and psychological, but to the senses of sight with the gorgeous scenic and lightings by A.J. Guban and fantastic costume designs by Kendra Rai and sound with Tom Teasley, composer and percussionist, of a stunning musical score.
The show is at Constellation Theatre until May 24.