Reduced to a number that one can virtually count on the fingers of one hand, Hindi groups in this city battle the difficult conditions of having to rely on largely untrained actors. Although the directors themselves have considerable resumes in theatre, they cannot raise the levels of their proteges by much in the limited time they have for rehearsals. Thus we encounter productions within which standards fluctuate wildly.

Led by Sheo Kumar Jhunjhunwala, Proscenium can boast of a core team with experience. Of late, it has revived in Hindi plays that it had previously presented in the original English. This continues with Frederick Knott’s chiller Wait Until Dark, which Proscenium’s in-house translator, Bindu Jaiswal, renders faithfully as Ek Anokhi Gudiyā (after the doll crucial to the plot). But for a nail-biting spine-tingler that propels us to the edges of our seats, it must have flawless performances from everyone, which does not happen.

Jaiswal herself succeeds as the blind protagonist, simultaneously expressing the picture of vulnerability as well as reserves of courage and native intelligence in her life-and-death struggle against hopeless odds. As the main criminal antagonist, Sahir Siddiqui cultivates a devious savoir faire that turns psychopathic, impressing us the most. However, Anjum Rizvi and Sharabh Chatterjee convert the rest of the gang into near-bumbling yokels, which vitiates the suspense. Jhunjhunwala’s interior set of the flat pays laudable attention to detailing.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Lakshmi Narayan Lal from Allahabad made a name as one of the leading new playwrights in Hindi, for both experimental and political drama. Mr Abhimanyu (1971) became famous for its angry-young-man antihero, personifying the disillusionment with contemporary life that had begun to spread in India. At a time when similar disappointments disturb intelligent minds today, young director Kartikey Tripathi perspicaciously rediscovers this play, but he does a poor job of compressing the script and faces major problems with a very amateur cast. Only he stands out, in the eponymous role, as a cauldron of frustrations. Most of the others, and particularly his wife (Vindhya Gupta), just cannot convince.

(From The Telegraph, 9 September 2017)