The Death of Mrs. Gandhi and the Beginning of the New Physics by Kawa Ada is a current main stage production in the Next Stage Theatre Festival. Next Stage Theatre Festival showcases the work of established Fringe Festival artists who have demonstrated the tenacity and ingenuity to take their work to the “next stage”. The festival is comprised of remounts from the Fringe Festival, and many new works by Fringe artists.
Written and directed by Dora award winner Kawa Ada, The Death of Mrs. Gandhi and the Beginning of the New Physics is a political fantasy in which Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto, Imelda Marcos and a political debutante named Kim Campbell gather at the 1984 funeral of Indira Gandhi. This wake of the damned is disrupted by the appearance of a time travelling terrorist.
I was very impressed by Ada’s sensitive and complex performance as Kanan and Kavalan in the recent production of The Enchanted Loom (Cahoots Theatre Company) at Factory Theatre. His grasp of character development and audience engagement clearly served him well as a director. The cast gave dedicated and consummate performances. The jokes were obviously landing because there was a great deal of audible laughter throughout the performance.
Despite these strengths, myself and my companions had a hard time getting engaged by the play. The play is a work in progress, and it felt like the characters needed to be fleshed out a bit more. Much of the comedy relied on headline soundbites about these influential women, and we did not learn much that was new about their motivations. The time traveller’s objectives were also not clearly articulated, and I walked away feeling like this character’s potential was not fully explored. The story telling felt unfocused, and as a result, I had a hard time concentrating on the play for 90 minutes.
The story definitely has potential, and other aspects of the production were on point. The costumes captured the iconic aesthetic of each world leader clearly and humorously. The set also had some great eye candy, most notably an antique beverage cart with gold wheels, and a curvy chaise longue that captured the decadence associated with each of these women.
Right now, this play is a diamond in the rough. A more focused story would make it shine.