By Crystal Wood
I don’t have kids, I didn’t bring a little one with me, and I don’t usually find myself in the market for a piece of family theatre. So, would Beneath the Banyan Tree hold my attention for the full 60 minutes? Survey says: yes, it did.
The story, by playwright Emil Sher, is a simple one. Young Anjali moves from India to Canada, and has trouble assimilating the two cultures. This isn’t helped by the popular girl, Skylar, making things difficult as popular girls often do. The message here is being true to yourself, and is helped along by some traditional Indian stories told through puppets and dance. I found the dance (or bharatanatyam, as we learn in the show) very entertaining, as it was woven into the story, effectively helping to tell it.
All of the actors were entertaining, and I was very impressed that they were not distracted by the rustling and whispering of 100 antsy third-graders. (I especially liked Tom Keenan, who played Anjali’s friend, Mason, as well as a very agile monkey named Bundar.) I had to fly solo for this weekday school matinee, as most of my friends are “responsible” with “real jobs,” so I spent some time looking around at the kids’ reactions. There were a few that seemed to find sitting quietly to be the worst form of torture, but most of the young audience was engaged – laughing when they were supposed to laugh and quiet during the more serious scenes.
All in all, I would recommend Beneath the Banyan Tree, particularly if you’re looking for something to do with the kids this weekend that doesn’t involve an Xbox.
Performances run until November 20, Saturdays at 2pm & 4pm and Sundays at 2pm. Performance time approx. 60 minutes with a Q & A afterward
Theatre Direct has added two performances of Beneath the Banyan Tree for the public on Friday, November 13th at 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM.