indian ink by Tom Stoppard, directed by Richard Cottrell, with Fiona Reid, Sanjay Talwar, Steve Ross, Hazel Desbarats, Vik Sahay and Errol Sitahal. Presented by Canadian Stage at the Bluma Appel (27 Front East). Runs to April 27, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm, Saturday 2 pm. $20-$75, limited Monday pwyc and half-price same-day rush. 416-368-3110. Rating: NN
tom stoppard's wit and imagination suffuse such works as Travesties and Arcadia (onstage) and Brazil and Shakespeare In Love (on film). But in Indian Ink, a very minor play given a lustreless production by CanStage, his imagination has dried up and the wit has soured to pedantry.Fictional poet Flora Crewe (Fiona Reid) leaves a mildly scandalous past in England -- including some famous literary lovers -- for India in the 1930s. Once there, she befriends a widowed painter named Nirad Das (Sanjay Talwar), sits for her portrait and encounters the occasional cultural and moral boundary.
Stoppard also provides a more modern scenario, with Das's son (Vik Sahay), Flora's sister (Hazel Desbarats) and a bumbling academic (Steve Ross in the show's sole caricature performance) trying to figure out what happened during Flora's Indian sojourn.
For all the talk about art, identity, colonialism and sexual mores, there's little tension in the show. Stoppard drops names constantly -- Forster, Wells, Stein, Modigliani -- but it's all an intellectual tease. There's no payoff.
Despite competent line readings, Reid's Crewe remains an enigma, and what could be the work's emotional core -- the possible betrayal of one artist by another -- is brushed over by Richard Cottrell's cool direction.
Indian Ink doesn't leave much of an impression.