Thursday, December 06, 2012

Bhopal: Play Review

Our intrepid intern Henry Moorhead reviews the US production of Bhopal, and outlines his hopes for audiences around the globe.

On the 18th of November in New Brunswick NJ, Epic Actors’ Workshop and Bond Street Theatre merged to create a play on the effect of this catastrophic disaster of Bhopal.  The play tells the story of December 3rd 1984, when a pesticide plant exploded in Bhopal, India, leaking over 40 tons of methyl isocyanine gas and killing over 2,000 people instantly and many more as the toxins reached the human bodies.  Years later children were born deformed or physically impaired due to the direct impact of this tragic disaster.  Today the effects are still felt, and Bhopal demonstrates the level of impact one incident can have on the entire world. 

The play opens as the police in Bhopal try to convince Dr. Sonya Labonté (played by Anna Zastrow) to leave the slums of Bhopal and go back to her native Canada.  The relationship that Dr. Labonté develops with her patients (women in the slums of Bhopal) is so authentic, it shows the reality of what it was like during the disaster.  Ms. Zastrow lights up the stage with her captivating presence as she tends to the women who have suffered. 

The chorus (who play the woman of Bhopal) represents the essence of the world in Bhopal. The physical and vocal choices they make pull the audience in closer and allow the piece to build.  They demonstrate the core of the play, as they are the ones who are affected the most.   

Jaganlal Bhandari, Chief Minister of State in Bhopal (played by Sajal Mukherjee), dives deep into his character as a misguided and corrupt driven man and creates conflict with his stubborn views. 

Throughout the play the themes, dialog, and interactions exemplify how difficult it is for first world counties like the United States and third world countries like India to work together. Given the laws, culture, and methods of operating are so different; it takes immense effort and perseverance to make an impact individually.  Dr. Labonté epitomizes this on many levels.  As the play deals with such heart wrenching and severe issues, the moments of comic relief heighten the essence of the play.  For example, Pescale Suavé (played by Shai Lendra Khurana) retorts, “There are so many laws, it is impossible not to break a few.”  The audience chuckles and it gives them a chance to relax. 

After premiering in New Jersey in the United States, Bond Street takes Bhopal across the globe to tour in Nepal and India.  I hope the audience comes away how essential it is to make sure the necessary precautions are set in order to prevent future environmental catastrophes from happening.  Bhopal is a prime example of a play that continues Bond Street’s mission of “Creating Peace Through Theatre.”