Where There's a Will educates, amuses with survey of South Asian culture

GENseng's fall semester production of "Where There's a Will" by South Asian playwright Mahesh Dattani is an entertaining show of family drama and cultural exploration.

Directed by associate professor of the School of the Arts, Randy Kaplan, "Where There's a Will" features some of Geneseo's most talented students of South Asian heritage.

According to Kaplan's director's statement in the program, this show is the "first time we've ever done a South Asian play." GENseng's past productions have drawn predominately from other Asian cultural sources, making "Where There's a Will" a refreshing change of pace for GENseng participants.

"[This play] has been a different experience," said senior Shazia Sohrawardy, who plays the main character's wife, Sonal. "It's nice to bring something different to everyone - South Asian and not South Asian alike."

"Where There's a Will" is a comedy that tells the story of an Indian family as they cope with the stubborn patriarch of their household, Hasmukh Mehta (freshman Hamza Murtaza), during and after his life.

The show opens with a vivacious commentary by Mehta about his opinion of his young son, Ajit (junior Nibin S. Pachikara) and how the two clash in terms of generational and personal values. Ajit is prone to dreams and get rich quick schemes while his father favors stability and money above all else.

Murtaza's character also clashes with his "useless" wife Sonal, whose 25 years of attempting to please her husband mean little to Hasmukh, who only wants a woman "with some brains."

Hasmukh likewise takes issue with his daughter-in-law Preeti (sophomore Yangchen Bhuti) whose pacific nature does not stop him from constantly suspecting her of being a "sneaky and clever" girl.

As the two-act play progresses, Murtaza's character narrates the action via occasional monologues that describe his innermost feelings toward these members of his family. He loses the ability, however, to tell them of his resentments when a sudden heart attack leaves him a ghost.

Hasmukh looks on with a grin and satisfied commentary as his family struggles to pull together their lives after an unexpected clause in his will leaves their inheritance in jeopardy and in the company of a surprising new addition to their family (played by senior Haleema Murtaza).

The acting in "Where There's a Will" is solid. Hamza Murtaza, in particular, does an excellent job of portraying the proud and outspoken Hasmukh, complete with energetic gesticulations and a highly authentic Indian accent.

Sohrawardy also does an impressive job as his wife - an overworked woman stressed by meeting the demands of her husband and plagued by guilt that she was not adequate enough as a wife during his life.

According to Kaplan's director's statement, "Dattani's body of work provides much-needed opportunities for South Asians to engage in and experience modern drama, not by way of replacing tradition, but by way of augmenting it."

The show will premiere in the Robert Sinclair Theatre in Brodie Hall on Thursday at 7 p.m. and will run Friday at 4 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at bbo.geneseo.edu.