THE WAITING ROOM by Tanika Gupta (Rasik Arts). Runs to December 11. See Continuing Theatre Listings. Rating: NN
Tanika Gupta's too predictable The Waiting Room , the latest production by Rasik Arts , wants to combine the afterlife with the here and now. Its focus is Priya ( Ronica Sajnani ), a recently deceased wife and mother who has three days to resolve conflicts with her family before journeying to the waiting room - some call it heaven - of the title.
The manipulative, demanding Priya has to deal with an estranged son ( Adeel Ahmad ), a secretive daughter ( nisha ahuja ), a grieving husband ( David Fujino ) and a family friend ( Ishwar Mooljee ) with whom Priya hasn't been totally honest.
Priya's spirit guide appears in the person of Indian film star Dilip Kumar ( Selvamani Rajaram ), who, with some of the best lines of the play, instructs Priya in Hindu philosophy and ritual and plays up the role's comedy. Priya and Kumar have the easiest relationship onstage, bandying words with real energy and warmth. The two siblings also have moments that suggest a believable relationship.
Sadly, that sense of communication doesn't happen often enough. In fairness, I have to note that Fujino, who stepped into the show a week before opening, carries a script onstage and occasionally makes use of it. He recites the lines and doesn't yet manage much in the way of character.
But little of what's going on between the other figures is believable either. Part of the problem is the script, basically a soap opera melodrama set in the context of a Hindu family. The happy resolution can be seen coming miles down the road. Still, Priya is well written, and Sajnani gives her a potent energy and a proper sense of self-involvement.
Too bad director Sally Jones moves the show at such a slow pace. When actors fail to pick up their lines quickly enough - a crucial confrontation between Mooljee and Fujino is one example - the pauses drain the production's energy.