Playwright: Madhuri Shekar. At: Rasaka Theatre Company at the Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: 73-871-3000; www.victorygardens.com; $30. Runs through: March 8
In pre-literate ages, the purpose of marriage was transference of property, progeny serving as the vessels of the transfer, and while compatibility as a factor making for smooth transitions was generally acknowledged, approval of heirs to the family fortunes choosing their own spouses has come slowly and gradually, one community at a time. This is why the literature of our immigrant nation encompasses so many storiesfrom Abie's Irish Rose to Fiddler on the Roofof ancestral doctrine superseded by youthful exuberance.
The star-crossed lovers in Madhuri Shekar's play are not your typical Romeo and Juliet, though. For starters, they're both gay and male. Furthermore, Keshav Kurundkar, the object of Naveen Gavaskar's affections, is Euro-Caucasianalbeit raised by South Asian foster parentsand earns a peripatetic living as a photographer. Despite Mom and Dad Gavaskar's assimilation into the San Francisco environs, the prospect of their son's wedding, however thoroughly acculturated his fiancé, generates tensions exacerbated by sister Arundhathi's disappointment in her own arranged nuptials six years earlier and her envy of Naveen's freedom.
The blessings of Lord Ganesh, the Hindu god associated with overcoming obstacles, may assist in mitigating the filial conflicts, but the chief myth guiding the destinies of these sweethearts springs from a film titled Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge ( DDLJ )possibly the most popular movie ever produced by the Mumbai-based motion picture industry we know as "Bollywood." ( Released in 1995, DDLJ, as it is sometimes abbreviated, has screened in theaters continuously to the present day. ) Naveen and Keshav quote its dialogue to one another, sing its songs and re-enact its scenes, infusing their courtship with the romance only found in fiction. Gradually, that same magic works its spell on the prosaic relationships of their discontented adversaries, reminding the latter of their own efforts at tempering the old ways with the new.
If history mandates a happy resolution for the members of the Gavaskar clan, the intelligence reflected in Shekar's progress on the never-smooth road to enlightenment is to be commended. The Rasaka Theatre cast members sustain the tone under the direction of Anna C. Bahow, and deliver performances mirroring honest responses to honest questions with never a hint of sitcom caricature. Audiences of all ethnicities will see reflections of their own kin in this warm-hearted portrait, and a few may even recognize the sly references to DDLJ embedded in Matt Reich's infectious incidental music.