The supper theatre sweepstakes (or should one say steaks?) are on. Taj Bengal initiated the latest upmarket fad with Love Letters from Bombay, but the battle has been joined by Park Hotel, who brought down Prime Time Theatre’s Plaza Suite from Delhi for the weekend of September 17-19. Billed as “Theatre at the Park”, the bargain-basement tag of Rs 300 per head sharply undercut the Taj price, considering that it included the play, dinner, welcome drinks and even taxes.
What more could one want? Before eyeing the feast, you even got to feast your eyes on hoarse-throated haut-monde heartthrob Tejeshwar Singh, who ditched his duties as anchorman to articulate Neil Simon’s priceless one-liners on anchovies. Besides, the script was perfectly apropos to the setting and occasion, since it deals with shenanigans in a five-star suite. From its old slogan “Have your next affair at the Park”, the hotel has certainly come a long way—something more like “Have your next aperitif at the Park”!
In this 1968 hit, the first sketch of a couple trying to revive the magic after 20-odd years shows Simon satirizing the classic frailties of modern marital relations through his witty dialogue. Tejeshwar and Lillete Dubey capture the spirit plus the underlying pathos. The second playlet, starring Jacqueline Garewal and Amar Talwar as harassed parents persuading their daughter to get out of the bathroom and get married, depends more on gags and thus comes as an anticlimax. Directors Sita Raina and Dubey could have tried the third part in Simon’s triad instead—a director romancing his old flame—which matches the first scene better.
When time came for dinner, one seriously wondered which was superior: the theatre or the supper. Park excelled itself with a sumptuous spread of over a score of items grouped under four very theatrical heads: First Call (cold cuts), Main Shows (main dishes), Side Shows (salads) and Curtain Call (desserts). Exclusively European haute cuisine to go with the evening’s theme, the fare might have left vegetarians a little grumpy but carnivores got their fill in plenty and, except for some slightly stale bread, in scrumptiously good taste.
Gripes? Not stomachic, but critical: sight lines in Park’s Banquet Hall are constrained, so the acting platform should have been raised a little higher. Much of the details of Pradeep Sarkar’s replica set of a hotel suite got lost due to this handicap. Otherwise, a neat outing for those who can afford it. Dare we hope for a third helping?
Old Broadway hits renovated seem to have become the latest rage—and the latest theatrical means to money—in Bombay. Indianize, add a little masala of your own, and you have the ingredients for Butterﬂies Are Free (a Spandan presentation, Kalamandir, September 7). It helps if you can bring in the birds and the bees too.
Leonard Gershe’s play was no great shakes, but it became a reasonably charming film starring Goldie Hawn and Edward Albert (whatever happened to him?); now Alyque Padamsee’s treatment buries it for good. His casual approach to adapting is exemplified by the reference to “Firpo’s on Park Street” (never on Park Street, it closed down many years ago). Let alone homework on Calcutta, he doesn’t even do his research elsewhere: the music composed by the hero, who supposedly writes jingles, is a mainstream jazz violin solo, complete with applause at the end!
Obviously meant as a chariot for a fading Sharon Prabhakar in skimpy costumes—sounding most comfortable when she sings rather than when she acts—the production attracts attention to the potential of the nasal-voiced romantic lead (Rooky Dadachanji) instead. It begins to lose our interest once his mother enters: Anju Bedi was incredibly good in Tara but is incredibly stiff here, in a part so crucial that it won the movie actress an Oscar.
A desperate attempt to liven up proceedings comes in the form of a song-and-dance number, “Tough Is Sexy”. It’s a toss-up which is more absurd: Prabhakar’s lyrics or the apology for the bump-and-grind choreographed by Santosh Shetty. The first song, “Love Is When Your Heart Is Free”, shapes much better vocally. Even the set, by Kamakshi Kapadia, reflects the lack of finesse in this show. Ultimately, it’s for the birds.
(From The Telegraph, 13 October 1993)