nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
May 14, 2010
Meet Sanjay Gupta. He's 29 and a happy-go-lucky sort of fellow. He works in his parents' convenience store and harbors dreams of becoming a standup comic. But generally all is going well...until his father meets with Mr. Dave Patel and arranges a match between Sanjay and Mr. Patel's daughter, Neenu.
And then Sanjay meets Neenu...and falls head-over-heels in love with her.
D'Arranged Marriage chronicles this charmer of a love story, richly mining the Indian background of the tale while reveling in everything that makes it universal. It's performed by the inordinately talented Rajeev Varma, who co-wrote the play with director Tarun Mohanbhai. It's enormous fun: a grand showcase for Varma, who is a splendid mimic, physical comedian, and dancer in addition to being a fine actor; and it's also a sweet, lovely, and good-humored story of love against the odds that turns out well. This is the perfect show for date night.
Varma, in the guise of his alter ego Sanjay, narrates the show, and also plays all of the characters in it: smart and tentative Neenu, "Johnny Walker's best friend" Mr. Patel, both of Sanjay's overbearing parents, Sanjay's sleazy friend Rundeep, and, hilariously, an old Indian woman who uses a walker who makes two unforgettable cameo appearances in the story. Varma's movements are precise and skillful: when Sanjay visits the Patels' home for the first time, for example, he has an encounter with a freshly-waxed plastic upholstery cover that's dead-on and very funny. Another favorite moment comes when Sanjay realizes he is in love with Neenu—I don't want to give it away, but it embraces the contemporary cliches of love-at-first-sight with unabashed joy.
Varma is ingratiating, warm, and skillful and he deserves a big career here in the U.S. (he's originally from New Zealand). Meanwhile, I highly recommend this delightful, modest solo show: Varma and his creation, Sanjay, are great to spend time with.