Tribune-Review – You never know where Quantum Theatre will turn up next or what it will produce.
But it’s always a sure bet that it will be a production that challenges and entertains.
The latest offering can be found on a backstreet in Garfield where it has turned a large room in a community center into a pop-up comedy club called “The Temple of Comedy.”
Scenic designer Britton Mauk transformed the space into a quirky cabaret with a stage at one end and a bar at the other.
Once seated at small tables, audience members are served their choice of a bottle of Indian lager or a cup of chai and some Indian snacks, while actor Vince Ventura in the guise of emcee Vinny V does his best to warm up the crowd. As in an actual comedy club, attendees are free to visit the restroom or bar during the show.
In actuality, it’s the immersive setting for “Brahman/i,” which is subtitled “A One-Hijra Stand Up Comedy Show.”
Some explanation is necessary.
The play’s creator, Aditi Brennan Kapil, is a playwright of Bulgarian and Indian descent who was raised in Sweden, went to college in England and is now living in Minneapolis. So, it’s not surprising that multiple identities are the underlying current of this work.
The piece is organized as a stand-up comedy routine performed by Brahman/i, an East Indian hijra (someone born with both male and female genitalia) who grew up with his Hindu family in Athens, Ga.
During the performance, he appears in both his male and female identities.
Right about now, you’re most likely thinking this is not a candidate for your weekend entertainment schedule.
Under the direction of Shishir Kurup, actor Sanjiv Jhaveri takes us on Brahman/i’s journey as he negotiates the more exotic cross currents of heritage and gender identification, as well as the murky adolescent coming-of-age issues that sound remarkably familiar.
David Bielewicz provides musical punctuation and sound effects as J, the musician who serves as Brahman/i’s backup.
“The play is intended to be a stand-up comedy routine, until it’s not,” Kapil notes in the script.
Jhaveri succeeds in leading the audience through references to Hindu gods and an extended metaphor about plate tectonics and India’s place on the subcontinent, as well as Brahman/i’s struggle to negotiate high-school hallways and the world of gender definitions.
He also offers a vivid and hilarious portrait of his wacky, interfering Auntie.
While those with pre-knowledge of Hindu deities or “The Ramayana” may find additional humor, it’s accessible to anyone with a willingness to listen.
Played in approximately 90 minutes with no intermission, “Brahman/i” offers an evening that uses laughter as a key to unlock preconceptions about identity.