If you are interested in an epic play with dancing regarding the philosophical, spiritual and religious differences between a country’s king and chief priest, run do not walk to the
CAPS Productions presentation of “Sacrifice” by legendary Bengali playwright Rabindranath Tagore running through July 22nd at The Broadwater Theatre in Hollywood.
This story of the King of Tripura banning blood sacrifices at the temple of Goddess Kali and the affect it has on the Chief Priest, who stops at nothing to defy him,
is nothing short of a tragic classic that reminds us why we are alive.
Through sheer simplicity, grandeur and deep thought the playwright takes what could have been a simple tale of the clash between spirituality and religion to new heights
worthy of being produced and read until the end of time.
The language is moving, poetic and lyrical.
It forces us, the audience, to ask questions about the existence of God and religion and the importance or insignificance of war and violence.
The play is a river that does not stop flowing, a mountain that never reaches its peak and an eagle that does not stop soaring.
The words free us from the shackles of the mind and body and allow us to fly to the ends of the sky to be seated at the right hand of the Maker.
The playwright uncuffs us from deeply held religious beliefs to let us find our own way through this maze of philosophies and beliefs called existence.
In other words, Bengali poet and musician Tagore, who was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, and who reshaped Bengali literature and music
as well as Indian art with Contextual Modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is showing us the universe his way.
The dancing is singular, soulful and salient.
It reflects Tagore’s play writing and rebellious nature.
Its rhythm, athleticism and grace give the show a unique aspect that separates it from other tragedies of this magnitude.
The choreography and dance direction are stellar.
The movement rare, mysterious and dark to underscore the playwright’s contemplative flights.
Overall, the dancing is dramatic, dogmatic and daunting.
The ten dancers deserve high marks.
Director Aramazd Stepanian interprets Tagore’s language and mindset here wisely, profoundly and eloquently.
He does not get in the way of the actors or Tagore’s penmanship.
Stepanian, instead, assembles a deeply gifted cast and group of dancers to further the idea that what is read in the scriptures cannot be duplicated in real life.
Stone, stucco and rock, after all, are not flesh, bone and soul.
The veteran director brings together a group of actors that comprehend the difficulty and complexity of Tagore’s thinking and writing.
Louie Mandrapilias (Govinda-the king of Tripura) who gives a convincing turn complete with compassion, sympathy and leadership qualities enough to make
his character burn with love and command with calm. Mandrapilias’ laid-back style serves him well, especially towards the end of the proceedings.
Aramazd Stepanian (Raghupati-the chief priest of the temple) In sheer presence alone, Stepanian almost steals the show. The longtime director and actor understands his character as well or better
than any other actor in the play.
His pronunciation, profundity and power make this portrayal nothing short of unforgettable.
Tagore, himself, were he alive, could not have pictured a different performer in the role.
Stepanian’s strength stems from his firm belief in the script and playwright.
Here it turns out flawlessly.
But it is Manik Bahl (Jaising-a servant of the temple) who runs away with the show.
Bahl’s sensitivity and humility belie an intensity and drive second to none.
The young actor never stops being true to his character or the audience.
At one point in the first Sunday performance, standing on the front of the stage, the New Delhi native performed some of his lines to a man in a wheelchair sitting in front of the audience.
Such is the humanity and legacy of this brilliant actor.
His natural flow begins in the heart and soul and ends up on the boards at Lillian Way..
A performance for the ages.
This critic hopes to see Bahl on the stages of Hollywood or Los Angeles again soon.
Adding to the message of the play are Dance and Musical Director Rajasri Chakraborty, bold Costume Designer ‘Piu’ Mohua Roy and
Projectionist and Designer Erik Finck.
All in all, “Sacrifice” succeeds because of its spiritual color, philosophical raindrops and religious meadows, not despite them.
The mercurial, lyrical and natural quality of the writing is of the highest grade.
The direction, acting, dancing and music electric and drowning in the human spirit.
The play is a three alarm fire that forces us to gather ourselves and determine who we are, and what it is we believe,
or sometimes, do not believe.
It cajoles, communicates and caresses, often leaving a love song where a gaping hole in our heart once was.
This play must be seen because it is extremely unique and rare.
Penned by a non-white Indian who opposed British rule and saw things from a different perspective than the European and Industrial regimes of the day made him, like it or not, ahead of his time.
This masterpiece deserves to be placed in the same canon with the plays of the early Greeks and the world-renowned English playwright William Shakespeare.
.In many ways, it reminds of Shakespeare’s popular and tragic play “Hamlet.”
The play, then, proves that all is well at CAPS Productions.
The choice and success of this theatrical mother lode display a courage, intelligence and boldness most theatre companies can only hope to develop in their members and a
love and understanding of the stage many theatre ensembles can but hope to instill in their partners.
Kudos to all involved in an untainted and untamed realization.
By Radomir Vojtech Luza
Theatre, Film and Book Critic
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 7 p.m.
Seniors and Students:$15
(Two tickets each per performance for groups of 4 and 6 persons are available online at www.itsmyseat.com/CAPS or from Abril Bookstore only (Not at the Door)
Reservations and Information:
The Broadwater Theatre (formerly the Lillian Theatre)
1076 Lillian Way (at Santa Monica Blvd.)
Hollywood, CA 90038