Anusree Roy’s energy in Pyaasa could light up a city block.
PYAASA by Anusree Roy (Theatre Passe Muraille). To November 15. Pwyc-?$25. 416-?504-?7529. See Continuing Rating: NNNN
Last season, Anusree Roy won Dora Awards for writing and acting in her solo show Pyaasa, and it's easy to see why in this mainstage remount. Her script is direct and passionate, and her performance is spine-tinglingly alive and confident.
The brief play focuses on Chaya, a young girl in India's untouchables caste who lives in extreme poverty under a bridge with her family. She wants to attend school but is forced by her mother into working in a tea stall, where she comes up against abuse and injustice for the smallest offence.
The tragic tale is Dickensian in feel, and if the characters are a touch too saintly or evil, Roy the performer infuses them with an energy that makes them memorable. There's as much humour as pathos here, and Roy's smile could light up a city block.
Guided by director/dramaturge Thomas Morgan Jones, Roy is especially effective in morphing from one character to the next. So completely does she become Chaya's stooped-over, put-upon mother that you'll feel a pain in your back leaving the theatre.
The production is superb. There's a minimal set, but David DeGrow's eerily atmospheric lighting helps conjure up several very different worlds - a tea stall, a jail, a trip to get clean water - on the intimate Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace stage.