Tribune-Review – A community center in Friendship becomes a kitschy comedy club, while a stand-up comedy routine offers a hilarious exploration of identity and acceptance in Quantum Theatre’s production of “Brahman/I.”
Subtitled “A One-Hijra Stand-Up Comedy Show,” Aditi Brennan Kapil’s play explores history, mythology, gender, ethnic heritage and high school.
“Brahman/I” is the first part of Kapil’s “Displaced Hindu Gods” trilogy that riffs on the deities of the Hindu Trinity — Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva — and explores the Indian part of her heritage as a woman, a person of mixed race, an immigrant twice over and a person who lives amid an amazing diaspora that defies stereotyping.
“Brahman/I” puts the spotlight on a young American of East Indian heritage doing a 90-minute stand-up routine about juggling dual heritages and gender identities as a hijra — someone born with both male and female reproductive organs, or as the obstetrician says: “Congratulations, it’s an all-in-one!”
Indian society has labels for all places and a place for the hijras, says “Brahman/I” director Shishir Kurup. “At weddings and childbirth, their presence is an auspicious thing.”
But for Young Brahman, growing up was more problematic as he navigated the high-school hallways in Athens, Ga., as a hermaphrodite and as an Indian-American. It added extra levels to the usual adolescent dilemma of finding a comfortable identity and place in the world.
Beneath the comedy, “Brahman/I” addresses the universal “Where do I fit in?” question that almost everyone has wrestled with through a lively examination of identity, curiosity, courage and the assigned roles others use to identify us.
Labels are arbitrary, says Sanjiv Jhaveri, a New York-based actor, who plays Young Brahman. “Labeling is more for the labeler than the labelee.”
Jhaveri says he was excited about doing the role as soon as he read the script.
“I thought ‘Wow, with the skills I have I can bring something to it,’” he says.
He also was scared.
The script is 62 pages long, and, with the exception of a few brief interchanges between Young Brahman and the bass player who offers musical background and bridges, Jhaveri is responsible for all the words and for portraying the multiple characters from his eccentric Auntie to the high-school jocks who often made life an uphill battle.
“The playwright could have written it not as a one-person piece,” Jhaveri says. “But there’s something specific to the piece that it has to be stand-up comedy. It makes you open your mind in a way — you laugh, and you open your life.”
Quantum Theatre artistic director Karla Boos fell in love with the script as soon as she read it. She decided to expand on the stand-up comedy concept by creating a cheerfully raucous comedy club.
“It feels Vegasy — a small space where there’s a two- to three-drink minimum,” she says.
The audience will sit at small cabaret-style tables and high-tops where they will be served an Indian beer and a snack provided by People’s Indian Restaurant located just three blocks away.
“I want people to feel like they can get up to visit one of the two bars or go to the bathroom if they want, and servers will circulate if you want to purchase a second drink,” Boos says…