Mrs. Krishnan knows how to throw a damn good party

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Mrs. Krishnan’s Party | Indian Ink Theatre Company | The Cultch’s Culture Lab | January 15 – February 3, 2019

Dancing, delicious daal, and a damn good party. In Mrs. Krishnan’s Party, you aren’t just watching the fun; you’re part of it. Her boarder, James (Justin Rogers), has invited us all over to celebrate Onam. It’s a traditional Indian harvest festival that is, as James describes it, like Christmas, Easter, and Diwali all in one.

The only problem is that when Mrs. Krishnan (Kalyani Nagarajan) comes home and we all shout “surprise!” she is not pleased. Eventually, she comes around and her hospitality wins out as she begins to cook up a wonderful smelling pot of daal that fills the theatre with a spicy, warm aroma.

The beauty of this show is that there is so much audience interaction, and none of it feels forced or contrived. In fact, it was hard to tell whether some moments were planned or improvised, such as an audience member breaking a can opener while trying to help Mrs. Krishnan.

Rogers and Nagarajan are stellar actors, never breaking character and bringing us into the story so fully that it really did feel like a casual party where we learned about them and they learned about us. The feeling of common experience and casual friendliness was most evident after the show was over and most of the audience lingered to chat, eat daal, and bask in the welcoming atmosphere that was created in the space.

Rogers, as James the struggling DJ and college dropout, exudes optimism and enthusiasm. You can’t help but smile as he dances, passes out colourful scares for us to all wear, and explains the magic of his favourite holiday, Onam. Nagarajan is equally compelling as Mrs. Krishnan, the hard-working widow and shop owner who is so endearing that the audience falls for her within a few minutes.

Aside from being the most fun you’ll have in a theatre this year, there is a valuable element of cultural education as we learn all about Onam, and legends involving Hindu gods such as Vishnu and King Maveli. They also shared many words of wisdom about life and love, including “happy is not pretending to be something you’re not.”

As Mrs. Krishnan tries to decide whether she should sell her shop, and James worries about whether he’ll have somewhere to live, we get to know them and by the end we are having a meal with friends as they serve up the freshly made daal.   

This is one party you won’t want to leave.

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