Rice Boy by Sunil Kuruvilla, directed by Micheline Chevrier, with Deena Aziz, Pragna Desai, Sean T. Krishnan, Imali Perera, Anand Rajaram, Tom Rooney, Zohra Segal, Ronica Sajnani, Zaib Shaikh, Errol Sitahal and Sanjay Talwar. Presented by Canadian Stage (26 Berkeley). Runs to May 10, 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 Rating: NNNNN
What happened to sunil kuruvilla? Those writerly muscles he flexed in his play Fighting Words have atrophied in Rice Boy, a scrawny and underdeveloped look at the differences between India and Canada. Zaib Shaikh plays Tommy, a 12-year-old whose mother has died and who finds himself shuttling between two countries and climbing a lot of trees. What is he looking for? Why is he going back and forth?
We never find out. Tommy's father (Sean T. Krishnan), a former math prof who now works at a pizza parlour, is around for the first scene to say poetically portentous things like "When you get older, all you do is remember." But little of the dialogue or scenes connects with anything else.
The script's fragmented feel must be intentional, but to what end? Tommy's Indian relatives, including his disabled cousin Tina (Imali Perera), go shopping for saris. Cute, but so what? There's a nice Rushdie-esque moment when one of Tommy's aunts freezes in front of a butchered animal. And Kuruvilla's point is?
This is snapshot-flipping, not theatre. We never get any sense of how old Tommy is. At times he sounds like he's eight. He's naive enough to pretend to be the dead white son of a Kitchener farmer, the only scene with any dramatic tension. At another point he lets his leg be felt up by an Indian umbrella seller.
And for Krishna's sake, what does the title mean?