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The comedy of tension

``Clogged Arteries" captured well the absurdity of our own stressed lives chained to cell phones, observes ELIZABETH ROY.



"Clogged Arteries" ... thorough entertainer — Pic. by R. Ragu.

THE SCHOOL for destitute children that Mrs. Mary Clubwala and the Guild of Service started in 1950 is today better known as the Lady Nye Madras Round Table No. 1 Special Higher Secondary School. As the name suggests, Madras Round Table No.1 is the major sponsor and the reason why The Industrial Theatre Co. of Mumbai was at the Music Academy with their production of ``Clogged Arteries."

The script, written by Shiv Subrahmanyam, is an entertainer. One more time we sit back to be amused by the absurdity of our own stressed lives — chained to cell phones, struggling to breathe, as we chase elusive goals of achievement.

Lights fade in on a frozen composition from the latter half of the play. The frame comes alive to set up Avinash's living room. Three yellow (and one blue) translucent inflatable items of furniture and an assortment of phones, cordless or cellular to suit your taste, complete the stage. As regards the background score, ring tones drown all other sound effects.

Avinash (Sohrab Ardeshir) wants to believe he is a successful filmmaker. He works hard, worries about everything and seemingly packs 72 hours into a day. He cares about his family and accepts responsibility for what goes right and wrong. He even fits the other woman, Ronita (Divya Jagdale) into his schedule and is prompt to turn on the lover-act at the first purrs from her.

He wife (Ayesha Razaa) picks up a relationship with a poet young enough to be her son. His son Robin (Neil Bhoopalan) admits to being gay. His teenage daughter (Freisha Bomanbehram) is pregnant. They all smoke hash and generally indulge in substance abuse. Though at one time, or the other, he had tried it all himself, now Avinash is outraged. Deep breathing makes it worse. He turns to his mistress for solace and during an amorous dalliance collapses, his arteries clogged.

The scene shifts to the hospital ward where he is posted for a bypass surgery. Family and friends drift in and out of consciousness and hallucinations. He even dramatically completes the sexual dalliance which his clogged arteries so rudely interrupted. He survives. He gets a second chance. He can start life over, making sensible choices or continue life the way he lived it. The choice is his.

Undoubtedly the play was a huge success with the audience. They enjoyed the humour, the sexual innuendoes and enthusiastically tapped their feet to the music.

Sohrab Ardeshir is a gifted actor with an amazing range. (In ``Clogged Arteries" he was a hyper, stressed out and breathless as spaced out in ``Class of 84"). He sustained an incredible level of tension for a whole hour or more, pushing the audience into a panic. When finally he collapsed one wondered if he indeed was acting. He was as always, a pleasure to watch. He got good support from Razaa, Bhoopalan and Freisha Bomanbehram, who was particularly charming as the loving daughter who had strayed just a little.

What weakened the production, however, was the second half where the scene shifted to the hospital bed where a delirious Avinash was drifting in and out. There were highly stylised movements and lines and much dancing and music. It created a bizarre effect. One is not sure how it was meant to connect to the first half or what it was supposed to connote.

However, the play returned to its opening note as the lights faded out and the audience sighed with relief that Ardeshir was given a second chance.

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