POWAY, CA- A packed audience at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts pondered the true meaning of success and happiness, were treated to local manifestations of the Devil and an All-powerful being, and hummed and tapped along to ‘Udi’, ‘Darling’, and ‘Senorita’
The energy of the play rose to a higher level with the arrival of Evie, or Evil, or ‘Shaitan’ – The Devil – forcefully played by Khushboo Kalyani. Khushboo owned the role, remarkably maintaining her intensity in every scene. With her voice, body language and facial expressions she convincingly portrayed the Devil in human form, granting the struggling writer Kiran, played masterfully by Snehal Pachigar, his wish for success as a writer in exchange for his soul. The strength of Khushboo’s performance easily overcame the distraction of her white dress in one short scene, as she captivated the audience, who demonstrated their appreciation through raucous applause during, and at the end of the play.
Snehal’s acting was also noteworthy. He gave the audience a natural, nuanced performance as his character journeyed from being a destitute writer with his share of misfortunes, but big dreams, to a world-famous, well-respected author of an international best seller. He laments his poverty, makes a deal with the Devil, briefly enjoys the trappings of fame and wealth, mourns the loss of his friends, especially Zain, played by Gautam Batra, who is a cigarette addict, and used to give comments on Kiran’s writing. As Kiran gets caught up in his new world, he has no time for anyone else, and he finds out about Zain’s cancer, death and funeral, only too late. Ultimately, Kiran wants to give up all the success and the fame, this supposedly happy life he had dreamed of. He finds the success hollow, his life controlled by his agent, played by Romi Thakur, and his press secretary, played by Devika Ashok, leaving no time for what he really craves – his friends’ company, and the chance to spend time with his loved ones. Kiran calls out longingly for his soul, his sanity, and wants to break the contract he shook hands on with Evie.
Enter Dr. Kamal, played with a subdued intensity by Atul Prasad, a publisher who has dealt with Evie before, and now comes to the aid of Kiran. He and Evie face off in a ‘higher court’, presided by Sanjay Nichani’s God-like character that patiently hears both sides, and their witnesses. He speaks in a very measured, controlling voice through the proceedings, as Dr. Kamal presents Sheena and Lilly, played by Kiran Khillon, as witnesses.
The closing arguments from both sides, especially Evie, gather another round of applause from the audience. But ultimately good must win against evil. The court decides in favor of Kiran, nullifying the contract he made with Evie, on the basis that the happiness Evie provided to Kiran was shallow and empty. It was not what Kiran had asked for. The ending was expected, but still, it was a thrilling two-hour ride. At the end of the play, in what has become a tradition, Daudani brought out every person associated with the production to the stage, and introduced them to the audience, a gesture that embodies his gratitude for his team’s time and commitment. Under Daudani’s leadership as a founder, writer, and director, the Group has been putting together entertaining productions showcasing local talent in San Diego for the last 22 years.