A Brimful of Asha review by Sue-Anne Hess

*****stars

“Hello! My name is Ravi.. So lovely to meet you…Would you like to meet my mother?  ..Please, help yourself to a samosa..”

A Brimful of Asha is a theatre experience in a league all of its’ own, as we, the audience, are welcomed into the Jain family kitchen.  We are told, as the show commences, that we are here to help settle a dispute. It is a Battle Royale for the ages, part storytelling, part comedy, and part real life. The battle lines are drawn – it’s a culture clash, a generation gap, a battle of the sexes – mother vs. son.. These two are going to have it out, and the results are hilarious!

In all honesty, the storyline is a bit thin. Ravi’s parents have decided that, at 27, it’s time for him to get married. In keeping with their Indian culture and tradition, it is the parents’ (and more specifically the mothers’) obligation and privilege to ensure that their child is well-matched, and set for a happy future. Ravi, Canadian-born actor and theatre-producer is not sure if he’s ready, and is clinging to some crazy stereotype about marrying for love.

And so the scene is set: gentle lighting, a kitchen table, a pot of tea with two cups, and a plate of warm, delicious samosas. A screen on the rear wall shows the occasional demonstrative photo or map, as Ravi and his mother, Asha, present their positions; unpacking their opinions about love, family, tradition, and each other.

There is no doubt that those with an Indian cultural background will appreciate A Brimful of Asha with a particular affection. However, we can all identify with family clashes around the dinner table, well-meaning but overbearing relatives, and a young persons’ struggle for independence. These challenges, which can make or break families, are shared poignantly, and with a playful touch.

Ravi: She’s basically saying that if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it.. So, mom’s Beyoncé.

Ravi Jain is an accomplished performer. His monologues, comedy, and improvisation are confident and polished. Asha, on the other hand, tells us that she is not an actress, she is simply Ravi’s mom, and she wants to have her say. It’s clear that Ravi is in his comfort zone on stage, and Asha is not.

Nonetheless, Asha is a worthy contender. Dressed in a traditional Indian sari, she is the picture of a doting mother. Throughout the show, she sits demurely by the table and speaks with a soft, gentle voice, rarely taking her eyes from her son. But do not be deceived!  This woman is fierce, strategic and dazzlingly determined to get her way. When the gloves come off, the kitten is a lioness..

What makes A Brimful of Asha so appealing is Asha’s impish grin of satisfaction a she delivers yet another one-two punch of mothers’ wisdom to knock down her reasonable, yet headstrong son. In fact, it is the warm, mischievous smiles exchanged between Ravi and Asha throughout the show that has the audience in stitches from the very first line. These two clearly adore each other. Despite their points of disagreement and difference, both sincerely desire happiness for the other.

A Brimful of Asha delivers with that same engaging, self-effacing warmth that we see in other notable Canadian shows. You can’t help but love them (and want to strangle them), as they navigate family struggles, expectations, and imperfections. As a farewell token, the audience is given one of Asha’s recipe cards, and once more, we’re invited to hang around for a samosa and a chat.

Ravi: See, I won!

Asha: I let you win..

Who won the battle? Who cares.. A Brimful of Asha is an absolute delight!

set: 4.5/5

costumes: 4/5

Sound: 4/5

lighting: 44.5/5

performances: 5/5

stage management: 5/5

direction:5/5

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