By Michael Pisacano
Given the recent state of affairs regarding the concerns of people of color living in America, plays regarding social and racial injustice have been a prominent uniting topic among a majority of the plays performed on this campus recently. Whether they be original scripts such as Devin Douglas’ “Token” or revivals of classics such as Amiri Baraka’s 1964 play “Dutchman”, the theatre community at Purchase has largely taken to the stage in order to express their grievances with our current social and political climate. Among these productions, one group of people that seems to go underrepresented are Indian-Americans, which is where “I Am Parvati Patel” comes into play.
Written by Junior Playwriting & Screenwriting/Arts Management double major, Sara Ramsawak, “I Am Parvati Patel” is an original play revolving around Anjali Shah (played by Jihan Ramroop), a young Indian-American woman who works as a prostitute in order to pay for college. When her professor (played by Derek Sherry) becomes one of her clients, Anjali’s personal and professional life are sent into a complicated spiral.
The venue used for “I Am Parvati Patel” was Humanities room 2043, not necessarily the most traditional performance space for plays on this campus, but given the space, the production crew managed to make the most of the confined setting with minimalist neon lighting which significantly highlights the seedy atmosphere where Anjali conducts her business, as well as reflecting the personal claustrophobic isolation she is mentally experiencing.
Ramroop, who has least amount the acting experience in the cast, truly makes her mark in her Purchase acting debut as she plays Anjali’s personal torment in such subtle and nuanced ways. She never screams any of her lines, even in the most dramatic moments where she could have, even when her scene partners do. The other members of the cast, while still giving committed and intense performances, tend to play into the theatricality of the characters more, whereas she maintains the quiet, subdued stress of her character with such realism that she never comes across as if she’s giving a performance, but that she’s feeling her character’s pain as if she was a real person.
Aside from Anjali, her professor, and her pimp (played by Humza Mian), the only other characters in the play are five women known as The Selves who represent the different metaphorical versions of Anjali’s personality, and they feel like an inclusion that was made only in order to add more actors to the ensemble and to make the play longer than it was. Most of Anjali’s emotions that The Selves express through their monologues are already made clear through Ramroop’s emotions in her actual portrayal of the character. The only part in which the inclusion of the Selves was actually effective is in one of the play’s final moments when Anjali receives a disappointed text message from her parents after they found out what she’s been doing, which ends with them saying “We love you, but…” The heartbreak that Ramroop expresses as she reads that line and repeats it back to herself is so personal and real, and it only becomes more and more mentally traumatizing to her as all five of the Selves circle the stage repeating the line over and over, further hammering in the damage that such a simple message has caused her.
There are aspects of the story that feel like they could have been expanded upon more; after the first scene between Anjali and her professor, the very next scene after takes place months into their ongoing relationship once everything finally goes wrong. Scenes taking place throughout that period of time would have helped to better flesh out their dynamic to make the dramatic end all that much more impactful.
Due to its initially short length, there seems to be potential for Ramsawak to continue to expand upon the story of “I Am Parvati Patel” if she plans on or eventually chooses to do so. As it stands now, “I Am Parvati Patel” serves well as an emotionally engrossing character drama from the point of view of someone whose story doesn’t normally get told all that often.