Friday, April 12, 2019

Play a Day: Shruti Gupta Can Totally Deal

J. Stephen Brantley
For Friday I read Shruti Gupta Can Totally Deal by J. Stephen Brantley and available at New Play Exchange.

Okay, so I live in Ohio where the governor just passed a bill that makes abortion illegal if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Ohio is also the home of Stage Right Theatrics who produce the Conservative Theatre Festival which seeks to present “hard to find” conservative views on stage.

Now, I’m not going to argue whether or not there is inherent liberal bias in the theater community. What I am going to argue is that the stage is a forum for new ideas and (as twere) to “hold the mirror up to nature.” And as long as I see conservative politicians limiting or eliminating the rights of marginalized people, I have no use for hearing their point of view argued in the form of a play. Their rights are not threatened. Their views dominate. They are not being censored, good people do not want to hear them whine about being censored.

Which brings me to this morning’s play, which was delightful even while it was upsetting. Brantley has crafted a witty, romantic fairy tale of the America that I love so much, the one in which people from varied and diverse backgrounds come together, learn from each other, and love one another.

I mean, Shruti Gupta (the play) is conservative, because it’s about family and commitment. About Indian immigrants who created a new life together in the United States, and their children who are each seeking strong, permanent relationships. They also happen to be hard-working professionals whose desire to contribute to the community by excelling in their chosen fields.

But this play could never be accepted into the Conservative Theatre Festival because the son is marrying the man he loves, and the daughter, Shruti, is a “Dreamer,” an undocumented immigrant who was brought here when she was two.

This is a very timely piece, and accessible. I actually gasped while reading when the actress ex-girlfriend of Shruti’s new boyfriend ignorantly suggests she audition for the role of Jasmine in the new Aladdin musical … because earlier this week the exact same thing happened to someone I know with subcontinental ancestry. Same show, only the guy’s part.

There are microaggressions, and worse, emboldened white men seeking to undo all the progress of the 20th century with their mouths and their bare hands. And yet, the play concludes with love and family and hope, and lots of dad jokes.

Or as I like to call them, "jokes."

Who should I read tomorrow?

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