nytheatre.com review by Natasha Yannacanedo
June 15, 2007
I had a very mixed reaction to Marian Yalini Thambynayagam's Strange Rain. Her writing is profound, provocative, and heart-wrenching one moment and then almost trite in others. As a performer, she has an incredible presence onstage. However, when the writing gets weak, everyone's performance greatly suffers. The work tends to break down when it becomes spoken word poetry and when it strays from a specific subject matter or story. I find the choreography suffers when the performers have to sacrifice their acting by forcing these words with their movements. At the top of the piece, the women begin speaking after dancing only briefly and I wanted much more dancing before the words intruded.
Pradeepa Jeevamanoharan's choreography is intriguing, specific, and riveting throughout. The composer and cellist, Varuni Tiruchelvam, has a beautiful, striking presence and her music brings a powerful, magical resonance to the piece.
My favorite moments are when Thambynayagam reveals her personal stories. A monologue about her father captures my intrigue. I particularly appreciate the monologue in which Thambynayagam relates her experience of being barraged by ignorant Americans as to her identity. The question of "What are you?" and the comment "you are so exotic" resonate with obnoxiousness. Also, when she reveals to her mother that she is gay, the scene is heart-wrenching. The audience has great empathy for the mother caught in her cultural perspective and her daughter struggling to claim her identity. Shaheen Nazerali particularly shines as the conflicted mother and as the hilarious, gossiping neighbor.
As dancers, Nazerali, Thambynayagam, and Vibha Gulati possess incredible dexterity, beauty, and grace. There is much potential in this piece and I would love to see Thambynayagam improve the spoken word parts. I am impressed by the feedback form she includes in her program that asks the audience in-depth questions about their response to the piece. She appears to be a woman ready to diligently work on her craft. I am always excited by work that allows women to claim their voice and identity. I would love to see Thambynayagam develop a one-woman show where she tells stories about her family because her personal monologues are incredibly gripping.