A delicate strife, permanently strained

What ails a modern, urban life? What mars its seeming happiness or what jeopardises its foundation of stability? Imagine a room in a well-furnished flat with a stocky bar filled in with plenty of wine-bottles, where the scene opens up with the man and wife of the house, initially conversing as a lovey-dovey married couple. And suddenly the rosy picture of a perfect, close-knit family crumbles bit-by-bit like a fall of a pack of cards.
Here, the two protagonist speakers in question are Agnes and Tobias. Where liquor flows in abundantly, their bickerings, envy, suspicion and internal dilemmas pour in thick and fast, even to a greater magnitude. And of course, aggravating their already intense woes is their permanent house-guest, a.k.a. Agnes’ witty alcoholic sister, Claire, who leaves no stone unturned to breathe down their necks and disrupt their delicate domestic fabric which is anyways hanging in balance.
And further adding insult to this injury is their only multi-time divorced 36-year-old daughter Julia, who makes it a point to walk out on every other marriage she avows to remain committed to.
When tackling these two trouble-shooters was nothing less on Tobias and Agnes’ feeble shoulders, then their life-long family friends Harry and Edna abruptly come knocking at their doorstep with an undeclared, unforeseen phobia pressed inside their hearts. The story then moves at its own pace through a flurry of actions, introspections and high-octane verbal exchanges to reach the denouement.
The above-mentioned development takes place in American playwright Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, A Delicate Balance, which was recently performed by a bunch of talented students of the English department from Kolkata’s esteemed Jadavpur University at the city’s American Centre as part of its annual production of 2012-13.
Albee’s body of work is always considered a well-crafted, critical examination of modern conditions. Although he is particularly more popular for his earlier play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, yet the reputed director of the play Professor Ananda Lal, opines that he finds A Delicate Balance significantly admirable on stage but that it unfortunately languished in the shadow of its more famous precursor.
The play is tautly divided into three acts. But the most uniquely significant feature of the play was its circular stage-space within which the story was enacted by the dramatis personae from start to finish. While the occasional exits of the characters in the midst of the play were done through the audience by using doorways on either side of the spectators’ gallery.
Having provided the play with such a designed look that it certainly benefited the droves of audience. For they were offered with a 360 degree view of the play in progress.
At one moment, the cast of characters were facing a specific side to mouth their dialogues and emote their expressions, while in the next, they had their backs facing them only to address the opposite side. It goes without saying that the multiple rows of seats were packed to enough capacity to declare it a housefull show.
Staged at the newly-refurbished Lincoln Room of the American Centre, the play was dedicated to the victims of violence against women.
Though the cast comprised of mostly students who are expected to be amateurish in their act, yet they showed a lot of maturity, integrity and an inbuilt confidence to pull of the play, containing a strong emotional undercurrent.
Amongst the lead duo, the character of Agnes has been convincingly played by Rudrani Ganguly, whose tone of speech, pace of delivery, voice-modulation, facial expressions, make-up and appearance perfectly do justice to her part.
While Tobias’s role portrayed by Aritra Sengupta is incredibly good as the young actor plays a character way beyond his biological years. Essaying an aged character with the right kind of poise and body-lingo is no mean task. He sounds exceedingly good with his voice and lets his vocal chords escalate to a crescendo pitching in with the desired loudness.
Ananya Kanjilal’s Claire needs a special mention as she effortlessly spins a halo of aura around her with her smart portrayal of an independent-minded, free-spirited girl who doesn’t flinch to call a spade a spade.
Mayurakshi Sen’s young, headstrong and much of an idiosyncratic Julia springs a much amusing surprise in the later half of the play. Dipabali Dey doubles up both as Edna as well as the drama’s assistant director and she’s okay straddling with her twin-job. Somak Mukherjee’s Harry follows the script to the tee and just about manages to fit into the sub-plot.

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