‘A brimful of Asha’: Mother knows best
BOSTON — When emigrants journey to a new country, they bring with them their life experiences – their culture, values, attitudes, the prisms through which they view life in general.
But those same values and attitudes may clash with those of their children, who may have been raised completely or largely in the new country.
It has the potential to create great turmoil between parents and children. But when the sensitive subject of arranged marriages is approached with grace, heart and humor, the connection between children and parents doesn’t have to fray or break.
ArtsEmerson is currently streaming “A Brimful of Asha,” a production from the Toronto-based Why Not Theatre in which Indian-Canadian Ravi Jain and his mother Asha share the stage to recount their true story.
When Ravi Jain finally ends his studies in 2007 and appears ready to embark on his career, mother Asha takes it as a signal that Ravi is ready to settle down and get married. After all, Asha has already managed to help Ravi’s brother successfully find a bride and settle down and Ravi, she believes, at 27, is already a bit long in the tooth to become a groom.
Ravi asks for patience: Two years to get his feet wet in the theater world – after declining to join his father’s thriving business — before seeking a bride.
Arranged marriages were very much a part of the tradition in India, the country Asha left behind when she arrived in Canada. But did she really leave it behind? Perhaps not.
Methods have been updated, including “Bio-data”: mini digital resumes with photos that occasionally flash up on two onscreen monitors.
Ravi’s planned trip to India provides an opening for his mother to, um, “intercede” on his behalf when it comes to prospective brides All of a sudden, the trip’s itinerary includes both of his parents and a trip to Bombay to meet a woman, which hilariously morphs into being the entire family of the prospective bride.
Perhaps the funniest moment comes when Ravi trots out binders with replies from 150 women who responded to an ad Asha took out in an Indian newspaper touting Ravi.
There is frustration aplenty that sometimes boils over onstage. “You Stupid Canadian! You have no respect for our culture,” says Asha.
It becomes apparent that Ravi and Asha will agree to disagree and that Asha reserves the right to move the process along as she sees fit. Asha explains it carefully to her son. “You don’t get to choose your family, why should you choose your wife?”
“A Brimful of Asha” is full of heart and humor, but also delivers its message honestly and directly. Bridges can be built between the generations, even when other forces are pushing them apart.
The ongoing engagement of “A Brimful of Asha” marks the Toronto-based Why Not Theatre’s first time presenting with a Boston theater organization.
“As a touring company, we often share our work with audiences around the world. Sharing stories is an important way to build empathy and understanding and a way of showing us that borders are imaginary lines that separate states, provinces or countries,” says Why Not’s Ravi Jain. “We’re so grateful to be able to share our work with the audiences of Boston, especially at times when we can’t travel and we need more empathy in the world! ArtsEmerson is a phenomenal host and we look forward to meeting you all virtually in weeks to come!”
Ravi Jain, who directed, moves things along at a brisk pace and makes sure the funniest bits are dispersed equally in the 82-minute production.
In an effort to make the story of the Jain family as accessible as possible, tickets for “A Brimful of Asha” are Pick Your Price (options range from FREE – $100) and may be reserved at artsemerson.org. or by calling 617 824-8400.
ArtsEmerson presents the Why Not Theatre’s “A Brimful of Asha.” Written and Performed by Ravi Jain and Asha Jain. Directed by Ravi Jain. Set Design by Julie Fox. Lighting and Video Design by Beth Kates (Playground Studios). On-demand streaming available through Monday, March 22 @ 10 p.m. artsemerson.org.