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Timing was their strength

ELIZABETH ROY

The Masquerade presented four hard-hitting, funny one-act plays.



HARD-HITTING: From Masquerade.

Over the past few years Chennai has been receiving David Ives in reasonably small doses. The double bill weekend was one such, when Masquerade returned with four of their short plays from their repertoire at Top Storey, Alliance Francaise. The evening titled ``Doing it in Purpose" was of just the right length, well rehearsed and well presented, co-directed by Krishna Kumar and Manasi Subramaniam.

The evening opened with Karthik Srinivasan performing a segment from their forthcoming production on the life and career of John Barrymore. The preview was an artful marketing strategy, because Chennai has had the pleasure of watching him grow into a good and responsive actor.

Now on to the four short, very funny pieces from Ives — Arabian Nights, Sure Thing, Great Train Robbery and The Philadelphia. Ives does not waste time building scripts. Instead, he goes in for short, hard-hitting one-actors, which are extremely funny. ``I aspire to silliness on a daily basis," he says.

In all his plays, he helps you to see ordinary events through different people's eyes or helps you to see people change as their assumptions do. Fast paced, he runs you through variations of say, a simple encounter. It starts with the familiar and depending on the variations and the roles and perceptions of the participants moves towards very different outcomes.

Fast-paced

In all four plays the direction was neat and the quality of acting, on the whole, good. They had under control the sense of perfect timing, rather crucial to Ives and his fast-paced dialogue. Karthik Srinivasan, Samanth Subramaniam and Krishna Kumar in their multiple roles excelled in acting and built the case for experience, discipline and hard work. Anita Nandini made a mark with her stage presence and a sense of ease.

She was, however, a trifle low on energy. Madhuri Shekar, Hari Ganapathy and Srividya Balaji also contributed to the production with their relatively smaller roles. It would have been nice if Kanishkaa Balachandiran had given a more spontaneous performance, as he had a plum role as an American tourist lost in the exotica of the east.

Three pairs of flats of differing heights made a very pleasing and simple backdrop, circumscribing the acting space. Costumes were well designed, the music good and sounds pat on cue. The lighting though well designed didn't always catch the actors.

It was a nice relaxed evening from Masquerade. They made you think, they made you chuckle, they invited you to mind games. All this in spite of a sparse, extremely unresponsive audience who at best tittered at the wrong moments and muttered that what they really wanted to see was Oleanna, Masquerade's production the day after.

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