The title of Aditi Brennan Kapil’s 90-minute intermission-less play as well as the name of her main character is Shiv, named after the Hindu god Shiva. Shiva is better known as The Destroyer but is also known as The Transformer. There is no destruction and very little transformation in the production currently at The Theatre @ Boston Court. The program sets the time as “now and before” but there is not much in the performance of Monika Jolly as Shiv to easily distinguish the now from the before at first; she plays child and adult pretty much the same. You gradually come to realize that the scenes with her father, Bapu (Dileep Rao), take place when she was a child and the family had newly emigrated from India to Skokie, Illinois. Her father was a well- respected poet in his homeland but his attempts to translate his work into English and to write original poems in English only resulted in failure and disappointment. But Shiv adored her father and lovingly recalls their adventures together and his fantastical story-telling. As an adult, Shiv tries to find the person she feels is responsible for her father’s failure. She seemingly ignores the truths about her father when confronted with the reality of his life. She retreats into the fantasy world she has created, turning her thin mattress into a boat on the cosmic ocean. It’s a fanciful idea and Kapil’s language is very poetic at times but there is not much conflict or resolution to be found in her play. James Wagner as a young accountant/maybe love interest and his uncle, a professor and publisher (Leonard Kelly-Young) bring the reality to Shiv’s world.
Director Emilie Beck and her designers have created a phantasmagorical look and feel for the show that far outshines the feeble plot and dialogue. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s scenic design features ropes and cables that drop props into the action at appropriate moments. Tom Ontiveros’s lighting and video design and Jack Arky’s sound design are big pluses. Shiv looks and feels like Nouvelle Cuisine, beautiful to the eye but leaves your theatre-going soul starving for more substance.
The Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave. in Pasadena. Ends Aug. 9. 626-683-6883 or www.bostoncourt.org