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When laughter and tears mingle

Christopher Durang's ``Laughing Wild" staged last week shows how impossible it is to explain life or its absurdities. ELIZABETH ROY writes...



"Laughing Wild" ... different perspectives. — Pic. by S. R. Raghunathan.

"LAUGHING WILD" is a very unusual play from Christopher Durang. It played at the Music Academy last week, produced by Raell Padamsee and directed by Vikranth Pawar. Mandira Bedi and Darshan Jassiwala comprised the cast.

The three-part play is made up of two monologues, "Laughing Wild' and "Seeking Wild," and a third part, "Dreaming Wild," in which the lives of the woman and the man from the first two parts intersect and mix in delightful madness and overlapping dreams. All the three parts look at the complexity and stresses of contemporary life and are delicately poised at the point where laughter and tears

mingle.

Durang uses the play to impress on his audience that it is almost impossible to explain life or its absurdities. An outstanding satire, it discusses the agonies of existence, supermarkets, the ozone layer, sex, sexual preferences, etc.

In ``Laughing Wild," the woman (Mandira Bedi) addresses the audience: When she meets people, they ask her how life is. That, to her, is an absurd question. Life is a bitch! She walks into the supermarket to buy a pack of noodles. She is frustrated to find a man standing in front of the noodle counter. Though she did not ask him to move, he should have sensed her need to reach the noodle pack. She hits the surprised man on the head. She tells of her troubles with a taxi driver, her wanting to die after having sex. She talks of joining Alcoholics Anonymous, for companionship.

Of her wild laugh that she likes to do at parties. She tries her hand at audience participation, She bursts into tears, she laughs, and she curses the audience. "Laughter is a tonic. So forget crying. Cry and you cry alone. Laugh and you cry alone, later!" As she leaves she urges the audience to breath. It is the key to existence.

Being positive

In "Seeking Wild," a man shares what he has learned about positive thinking from a `personality course' he took. He has trouble maintaining his positive attitude. His thoughts go rushing off into anxieties and irritations and angers at injustice. He talks about his job at the magazine, about his bisexuality and of the Supreme Court's anti-gay ruling. He ponders the state of the ozone layer. He finds other people difficult. For example, he met this woman at the supermarket who attacked him for no discernible reason. He thinks

aloud with the audience about the different ways he could have behaved with her, so as to avoid being hit on the head. As he leaves he urges the audience to join him in just breathing.

The third piece, "Dreaming Wild," has the woman and the man interacting, recreating the supermarket scene. They try out different scenarios of how else they might have played it out. Every one of them ends in disaster. They talk about the dreams they have been having. Sometimes they do not understand them because it has to do with the other person. As they leave the stage, the theme of the two characters struggling to make sense out of life continues to resonate.

Durang meant for his play to carry references to events that were current wherever and whenever the play was being performed and Padamsee did a great job adapting and contemporising it for the Indian scene.

Mandira Bedi as the woman was charming and vulnerable and drew the audience's sympathy but didn't quite hold them or take them along on her journey. On the other hand, Darshan Jassiwala as the man gave a great performance and had the audience ready to follow him anywhere.

Some years ago one of Chennai's local groups put ``Laughing Wild" on the boards at the Museum Theatre. One enjoyed this show more completely because, unlike the earlier production, this included the other two parts also and one got to see and hear the two people approaching the same issues from different perspectives. And you began to understand in a very small way the incorrigible complexity that is life.

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