It was shortly after the British Raj released its grip on the people of India in 1947, after nearly 100 years of rule, that working-class Indian families began emigrating to London. The subsequent blending of the two radically different cultures – the Brits and those fleeing the weak economy in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – was filled with battles and bruised feelings; the uncomfortable relationship continues to this day despite the growing diversity of a country stretched to its limits, both economically and socially. This is the world portrayed in the entertaining one-woman show “Treya’s Last Dance” now playing at Hollywood’s Hudson Guild Theatre.
It is in a middle class, working neighborhood of London that we meet Treya, a twenty-something who appears on stage draped in traditional Indian dance garb; the music starts, but she falls behind in her routine, fleeing the stage in frustration and shame. When she returns, dressed like a typically trendy East End girl, she addresses the audience in a confessional style monologue. We learn about her family, particularly her demanding mother and annoying brother, her dead-end job, and her lonely social life that pushes her to attend an excruciating speed dating event at a local club.
Shyam Bhatt, who also wrote the play, portrays the hapless Treya, a bundle of nerves, tics and tumbling words. Her energy carries the audience with her on an emotional journey from confusion to grief to hopefully a happy ending. While the show runs a little over an hour, it flies by thanks to Bhatt and the sensitive direction of Poonam Basu, herself an actor and writer who has appeared on stages in LA, Boston, Phoenix, and Madrid. Basu has also produced six short films, one who just won an award at the recent Vegas Movie Awards.
While much of Treya’s observations on life initially seem simplistic and crowd-sourced, the more we learn about her, we see that there is a deeply felt sorrow that becomes clearer as the show goes on. Her efforts to find a “life partner” make more sense in light of her loss. She faces her past and her future with indefatigable humor and a pugnacious, “Bolshy” attitude. One has no doubt that Treya will find her center and move forward in life as only she can.
One small note: Bhatt uses the unique and sometimes unintelligible argot of East Indian working-class youth, so some of the jokes and her comments might sail over the heads of individual audience members. As I grew up in the UK, I was familiar with some of the terms she used and found them endearingly perfect for her character.
According to program notes, Bhatt has written a second play, which she developed at the prestigious Kali Theatre Writers program in London. “Wisdom Teeth” will be staged next year, and I will be interested to see the next phase of this talented woman’s artistic journey.
The creative team for “Treya’s Last Dance” includes music composed by Archita Kumar, lighting and sound by Steve Pope, voiceovers/vocals by Arun Kamath, and production assistant Jana Dimitrievska.
If you want to spend an hour or so with a complex, whip-smart, sexually aware young woman with attitude, Treya is your Dream Girl!
Treya’s Last Dance runs Wednesdays at 8 pm, through October 23 at the Hudson Guild Theatre at 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. Tickets are available in advance through On Stage 411 at www.onstage411.com or by calling 323-965-9996.