THE WASHING MACHINE by Radha S. Menon (Red Betty Theatre). Factory Studio (125 Bathurst). See listing.
Times: January 10 at 8:30 pm, January 11 at 6:15 pm, January 12 at 9:15 pm, January 14 at 5 pm, January 15 at 9:15 pm. $12-$15. 416-966-1062. Rating: NN
The Washing Machine is about the clash of cultures, religions, generations and values. Unfortunately, in almost every instance, that clash is melodramatically over the top.
Following the death of her English husband and child in the late 1970s, Isabelle returns to her home in India, intending to turn the family coconut and banana estate into a more elegant, modern place, complete with tennis courts and a new washing machine. She finds herself in conflict with her servants, her lecherous brother, the nearby convent and a Hindu religious leader.
There's a secret buried in Isabelle's past, but one not too hard to guess nor as shockingly revealed as it might be at the play's end.
Maybe Radha S. Menon's script has been cut down for this production or it's still in process; most of the characters need fuller development and plot elements aren't well connected.
Even the metaphor of the washing machine, intended to bring change to Isabelle's present and thereby redefine her past, isn't well used.
Some elements of the production stand out. Mina James brings power to her often silent work as a ghostly figure who escapes into her tea rather than face problems with her family. Asha Vijayasingham as the servant Lalita has a strong scene with Cydney Penner's Isabelle about her dreams and the impossibility of realizing them because she is untouchable.
Another plus is Jung-Hye Kim's set, a raised oval ring that separates the everyday world from another parallel, spiritual one.