British genres of stage entertainment drive the new productions of two recently-formed city groups led by veterans. After debuting with Joe Orton’s subversive bedroom comedy What the Butler Saw, Dramatics Calcutta picks a whodunit, whereas The Ultimate Theatre does the reverse, regressing into West End sex farce after having adapted a Vijay Tendulkar satire.

Rejecting the usual tried-and-tested hits like those by Agatha Christie, Dramatics Calcutta director Amit Dutt wrote an original murder mystery titled 3 Knocks. Further, to celebrate the tercentenary of Freemasonry, Dutt, a member of the District Grand Lodge of Bengal (dating to 1727, among the world’s oldest), worked into his composition the tenets of the brotherhood, to enlighten audiences.

3 Knocks reveals that Das has not only studied the genre of whodunits very carefully, but imbibed its techniques so well as to create a foolproof script without discernible loopholes. He injects enough twists and turns in the plot to keep us guessing, and adheres to the prescription of making the most unlikely person culpable. By way of improvement, we recommend that he place future forays in India, so that viewers can get drawn into the situation more easily. The British setting does feel rather remote today.

The interpolation of the masonic creed certainly informs us about things we did not know, namely its charitable objectives and belief in brotherly love, relief and truth, dispelling the popular rumours that circulate regarding its secret rites. However, Dutt crams this exposition into one scene of the second half, making that too heavy, instead of sprinkling it all over. Other than his thinly-disguised spokesman introduced purely for this purpose, the cast act in character.

For Ultimate Theatre’s Dramebaaz, Palash Chaturvedi Indianizes Ray Cooney’s ribald romp in a hospital, It Runs in the Family, where a former nurse returns to give a doctor the shock of his life. Kolkata has seen it often enough that Ashok Singh need not have revived it. He directs in formulaic farcical style, but Ashok Mehra stands out as the mendacious medic by not overdoing the slapstick like the others, but simply looking genuinely clueless. Singh should quickly redeem his reputation with something more substantial.

(From The Telegraph, 22 April 2017)