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A CurtainUp Feature
CurtainUpInterviews Itself: Indian Ink

Editorial Note: For reasons that should become clear shortly into the interview, we've decided to use this unconventional means of telling readers about Studio Theatre's excellent new production of Tom Stoppard's Indian Ink. CurtainUp's DC Editor, Les Gutman, interviews DC Contributor Susan Davidson. 
LG: Susan, when I asked you if you could review the Studio production of Tom Stoppard's Indian Ink, you hesitated. Since this play is right up your alley, I was surprised. It seems you have a bit of an inside relationship with this production. Tell us more. 
SD: About a year ago, I was having lunch at Oodles of Noodles with Serge  Seiden, assistant to Joy Zinoman, Artistic Director of the Studio  Theater here in Washington.  Our conversation roamed but I distinctly  remember asking Serge if he'd seen the movie Shakespeare In Love which  led to talk of Tom Stoppard.  Never one to shy away from sharing my  opinions, I told Serge that I thought the time was ripe for a production  of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  Serge looked down at his noodles.  I  thought I'd lost him until he said that Studio had done it (which I had  forgotten!) and that he didn't think Joy would want to do it again.  Then what about Indian Ink, said I.  Don't know it, said Serge. 
LG: How did you know it? 
SD: I had seen Indian Ink in London earlier that year and had loved it.  Art  Malik, star of the television series Jewel In The Crown played the male  lead, Nirad Das; Felicity Kendall, the female lead, Flora Crewe. Set in India during the Raj and in England some 50 years later, its  themes are cultural juxtapositions and the unknowability of history. Typical Stoppard fare, but told this time with unmatched sensuality in  language that is rich and rewarding.  Some good jokes too, as befits the  playwright who refers to himself as a bounced Czech. 
LG: When did you find out about the fruits of your lunch? 
SD: Reports would filter through from time to time and by the spring, the  announcement was made that Studio's 1999-2000 season would open with  Indian Ink.  I was thrilled. Then there was press coverage, "ink", of a  nationwide search for a suitable cast (a challenge the production met  almost perfectly). 
LG: Now the important question. How did you react to the result? 
SD: Indian Ink opened last Sunday.  My husband and I were in the audience,  not without  trepidation.  I knew the play and loved it but what about  the production?  Would it measure up to London's all-star cast?  Would  Ink flow as well on this side of the Atlantic as it does in Stoppard's  adopted home?  Would the cast turn it into a travesty -- bad pukka  accents and all that? 

Within minutes of the three-hour performance, I began to relax.  Isabel  Keating's Flora had a youthful vivacity and flirtatiousness that  Felicity Kendall's lacked.  Faran Tahir as Nirad Das, the male lead,  gives a performance as sensuous and sensitive as any I have seen on  stage, and June Hansen as Eleanor Swan, Flora's sister, gives the  performance -- eccentricity and intelligence in equal parts -- of her  distinguished career.  Hugh Nees, as the academic whose life's work is a  biography of Flora Crewe and the butt of Stoppard's joke on those who  believe that the past can be explained through footnotes, has the advantage over his English counterpart of being able to deliver an accent,  Texas rube, that is code for language snobs on this side of the pond. 
LG: As a newcomer to the play, I thought it was elegantly written and beautifully staged. Although it is filled with Stoppardisms (occasionally out of place, I thought, particularly from the mouth of Eleanor), it also shows a hitherto-unexposed side of Stoppard -- sensual, as you say, and decidedly un-British. 
SD: Excuse me, what's un-British about being sensual?
LG: Susan, who's conducting this interview anyway? And you can see very clearly, I said "sensual and un-British," not "sensual and therefore un-British." Wherever would I get such an idea? Now, as I was saying... I think Indian Ink is particularly fascinating in light of Stoppard's recent Talk magazine article about uncovering his own past as well as his first-hand experiences with the Anglo-Indian world. And, as only he can, Stoppard magnificently defines an Indian concept for us -- Rasa -- and then illustrates it with equal glory. Rasa is what you must feel when you see a painting or hear music: it is the emotion which the artist must arouse in you....a state of heightened delight. ---Tom Stoppard The playbill goes on to list the eight specific sentiments which evoke Rasa in particular works of art: shringara (the erotic); hasya (the comic); karuna (the pathetic); raudra (the furious); vira (the heroic); bhayanaka (the terrible); bibhatsa (the odious); adbhuta (the wondrous), and shanta (the quiescent).

SD: To me, Indian Ink manifests many if not all of the above.

By Tom Stoppard
Directed by Joy Zinoman
With: Isabel Keating, Ravi M. Khanna, Sanjiv Jhaveri, June Hansen, Hugh Nees, Faran Tahir, Ronobir Lahiri, Rufus Collins, Sean T. Krishman, Wayne Jordan, Corrie James, Scott Griswold, Diane Cummings, Rajesh Vidyasagar, Elizabeth Andrews, Dan Via, Pierre E. Anthony and Saji Prelis
Set Design: Russell Metheny
Lighting Design: Joseph Appelt
Costume Design: Helen Q. Huang
Sound Design: Gil Thompson
>Original Music: Ronobir Lahiri&
Running time:  3 hours,  10 minutes with 1 intermission
Studio Theatre, 1333 P Street NW(202) 332-3300
Opened September 12, 1999, closes October 17, 1999;
Based on 9/12/1999 performances.
©Copyright 1999, Elyse Sommer,
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