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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents Tom Stoppard's "Indian Ink" at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre
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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents Tom Stoppard's "Indian Ink" at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Roundabout Theatre Company
Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Harold Wolpert, Managing Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director
Sydney Beers, General Manager

Indian Ink
(Indian Ink Website)

By Tom Stoppard
Directed by Carey Perloff

Firdous Bamji, Bill Buell, Nick Choksi, Romola Garai,
Rosemary Harris, Neal Huff, Caroline Lagerfelt, Omar Maskati,
Tim McGeever, Brenda Meaney, Philip Mills, Ajay Naidu,
Bhavesh Patel, Lee Aaron Rosen, Rajeev Varma

Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre/
Roundabout at Laura Pels Theatre
111 West 46th Street
New York, NY
(Roundabout Laura Pels Theatre Website)

Set Design: Neil Patel
Costume Design: Candice Donnelly
Lighting Design: Robert Wierzel
Original Music & Sound Design: Dan Moses Schrier
Dialect Coach: Gillian Lane-Plescia
Hair & Wig Design: Tom Watson
Fight Director: Thomas Schall
Choreographer: John Carrafa
Production Stage Manager: Nevin Hedley
Press: Polk & Co.
Casting: Carrie Gardner, CSA, Stephen Kopel, CSA
Indian Ink General Manager: Nicholas J. Caccavo
Director of Marketing/Audience Development: Tom O’Connor
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Director of Development: Lynne Guggenheim Gregory
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Adams Associate Artistic Director: Scott Ellis

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 2, 2014

Tom Stoppard’s play, Indian Ink, first produced in 1995, is, at once, confusing and riveting, complex and resonant, esoteric and romantic. It satisfies on many levels with two time periods, 1930 in India and the 1980’s in England and India, overlapping, but barely interacting. Yet, the central love affair, associated with the blue-black, inked drawings of the god, Krishna, and the “rasa” of love in its eroticism, is drawn too thinly, leaving the viewer craving more. The chemistry between the young English poet, Flora Crewe (Romola Garai) and the artist, who paints her, Nirad Das (Firdous Bamji), is as hot as fire, deep within the would-be lovers. But, when they finally act on their love affair, as lights dim, walking toward each other to Carnatic Indian music in a warm glow, the scene ends all too soon. The featured actress of the right, front stage action is Rosemary Harris, as Flora’s younger sister, Eleanor, 50 years after Flora’s death from tuberculosis. Ms. Harris and Ms. Garai, along with their suitors, visitors, scholarly contacts, and a Rajah, take turns in the spotlight, as present and past shift and form illuminating connections. The 1930’s scenes end with another character appearing in the form of the younger Eleanor, who meets an Englishman and becomes Mrs. Swan.

The Manhattan Theatre Club Playbill is highly confusing, not listing these final characters specifically. Moreover, the complexity of the timelines and the multitude of at least sixteen characters and fifteen actors in two acts, with some of the characters, in India, inconclusive as to plot connection and dramatic relationships, left many in the audience mumbling at intermission in fretful dismay. This play would have been better served with projected details above the action, or offstage narration of place and time. Neil Patel’s stucco, estate exterior is gorgeously lit in blue, with blue-green steps and spartan, minimal furnishings, except for a white gauzy, circular, curtained bed for the perspiring Flora, as she’s nursed by her loving artist. Nirad Das first paints this headstrong, independent, well-traveled poet, when she arrives in Jummapur, carried in amidst fanfare and flourish. She received garlands of flowers to adorn her neck. Mr. Bamji is one of the most expressive actors I’ve seen in some time, with each gesture magnifying his inner turmoil and lust. He should be seen onstage again, soon, in new productions. Ms. Garai is splendidly cast as the daring, independent Flora Crewe, who guards her desire for her lover du jour within the ruse of a busy travel itinerary.

Ms. Harris is divine in her efforts to celebrate the poetry of her long deceased sister, Flora, as she passionately shows off Flora’s writings and Nirad’s paintings to Eldon Pike (Neal Huff), a scholar, who’s obsessed with Flora’s history. Other interesting characters, woven into the staged storyline, are Anish Das, Nirad’s adult son (Bhavesh Patel), Dilip (Nick Choksi), who is Eldon Pike’s cohort, the womanizing Rajah (Rajeev Varma), an English suitor, David Durance (Lee Aaron Rosen), and Coomaraswami (Ajay Naidu), an Indian politician. The most under-utilized, cultural theme of this Stoppard oeuvre is that of “rasa”, the tranquility one feels in experiencing the emotionality of art. “Rasa” would be a sensational central theme of a synthesized, simplified play, with the poetry and cross-cultural love story, minus the train station’s worth of secondary characters. Backdrops of projected, classical Indian art would enhance such an endeavor. Additionally, I would suggest future productions of Indian Ink find ways to delineate time and place and character descriptions, with projected narration or strengthened program notes. Carey Perloff has directed to keep the expansive cast in timely focus, albeit with some confusion of identity and purpose. The dialect coach did an excellent job, as did the fight director. Dan Moses Schreier’s original music was incandescent, and Robert Wierzel’s lighting shifted the tones of Neil Patel’s stucco and steps, as well as the interiors, with warmth and glow. Candace Donnelly’s costumes of 1930 India were colorful and radiant.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at