BHOPAL by Rahul Varma, directed by Guillermo Verdecchia, with Tom Butler, Brooke Johnson, Michael Miranda, Imali Perrera, Yashoda Ranganathan, Errol Sitahal and Sugith Varughese. Presented by Cahoots Theatre Projects in association with Teesri Duniya Theatre at the Theatre Centre (1087 Queen West). Runs to November 9, Wednesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm, some 1 pm student matinees. $15-$25, student matinees $12, Sunday pwyc. 416-504-7529. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
In an efficient, absorbing and occasionally melodramatic 80 minutes, Rahul Varma 's Bhopal sheds light on the personal and political events surrounding the 1984 Union Carbide factory disaster in Bhopal, India. Never displaying his research too baldly, Varma explores the bureaucratic mess that led to the event, and the consequent fallout, especially on a trio of strongly etched women: Izzat ( Yashoda Ranganathan ), an exploited slum-dweller who's trying to look after her ill and deformed baby; Madiha ( Imali Perrera ), a respectable woman who's dating a yes-man Union Carbide employee ( Sugith Varughese ); and Sonya ( Brooke Johnson ), a Canadian doctor who's trying to help Izzat and her child by using them for research.
On Camellia Koo 's evocative set dominated by walls of dirty rags and sand on the floor, Guillermo Verdecchia stages the play swiftly and fluidly, with some nice flashbacks in the early scenes and a disturbing, surprising moment when the disaster actually occurs.
A touch of soap opera shrillness seeps into the play's final third (aided by Perrera's uneven performance), but the clear-voiced Ranganathan is moving and never sentimental as the human pawn, Johnson does some of her best work as the frustrated doctor, and Errol Sitahal nearly steals the show as a pompous politician who gradually learns the truth.
Very relevant in the face of increased corporate globalization, Bhopal powerfully shows us the human cost of greed and corruption.