BWW Review: TREASURE ISLAND IN THE BAY OF BENGAL Gives New Perspective To An Old Story
TREASURE ISLAND IN THE BAY OF BENGAL is currently playing at the Austin Scottish Rite Theater. The adaptation written by Zane Baker and Susan Gayle Todd is based on the 1883 novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, "Treasure Island." Directed by Susan Gayle Todd and Megan Moore Ortiz, the production infuses the classic tale of pirates and buried treasure with Bollywood style and South Asian culture.
Jiniya Huq (Krishna Gajjar) is a young girl who watches over the Diamond Harbor Inn with her mother, Ma (Richa Jain). After receiving a mysterious treasure map from an old sea captain (Nithesh Kurella), Jinya stows away on Dr Lahiri's (Ruma Singh) vessel, The Sea Tigress, in search of the elusive buried treasure. Once at sea, Jinya befriends the ship's cook Chandi-Lal (Michelle Jackson), but all is not as it seems. What follows is a swashbuckling tale on the high seas full of danger and adventure at every turn.
Performances by the cast of the show are enthusiastic and full of heart. Throughout the production, the characters weave through the crowd and interact with the audience. As the story's young hero Jiniya, Krishna Gajjar is an endearing character full of energy. She bounds across the stage as the fearless young stow-away and emanates youthful exuberance during the 50-minute production. Michelle Jackson as Chandi-Lal is a dynamic presence onstage. Charismatic and intimidating, Jackson succeeds in making the undercover villain both engaging and likeable. Jelena Stojilijkovic Rhynes' well-timed comedic antics as Chandi-Lal's parrot, Meethu are also a favorite amongst the audience's youngest members. Other notable performances are Richa Jain as Ma, Ruma Singh as Dr Lahiri, Vicki Yoder as Rudro, and Maddy Gawane as Kelo Bodmash.
The shows lively musical numbers are a highlight of the production, easily combining old sea shanties (Dead Man's Chest and Blow The Man Down) with Bollywood-style choreography by Preya Mangalat Patel. Live music provided by the Sacred Cowgirls is also a delightful treat and helps to fully round out the South Asian influence of the show. The spectacular set design by Vicki Yoder, Garth Weaver, June Podilech, and Deanna Belardinelli, carries the audience through the production's multiple setting with a vivid color palette and detailed imagery. Another stand-out of the play was the large scale puppetry of the monster Sea Doytto, created and operated by Gerri Hoffman. Always lurking just offstage, the creature's massive tentacles serve as an ally to Jiniya and a stern consequence to other less fortunate seafarers.
All in all, TREASURE ISLAND IN THE BAY OF BENGAL is a children's show that even adults will find entertaining. The production is a breath of fresh air, giving an old story a new cultural perspective. The outcome is both entertaining and wholeheartedly fun and is sure to mesmerize kids of all ages.
TREASURE ISLAND IN THE BAY OF BENGAL is now playing the Austin Scottish Rite Theater (Austin Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W 18th St, 78701)- until Sunday, April 28th. Showings Saturdays and Sundays at 11 am. 1 pm showings on April 20th, 21st, 27th, and 28th.
Approx. running time: 50 minutes (no intermission)
Children (2+) $10
General (12+) - $15