DIRECTED BY KARTHIK KUMAR
STARRING: T.M. KARTHIK SRINIVASAN, YUDHISHTHIR RANA, ANIL SRINIVASAN, ANISHA SARAH VARGHESE and KARTHIK KUMAR
‘Chasing my Mamet Duck’ takes from David Mamet’s ‘Duck Variations’ as far as its premise goes. It’s about two guys who sit on a bench and philosophize about ducks, drawing parallels where they can. I was reminded of the scene in Gus Van Sant’s ‘Good Will Hunting’ where Will Hunting (Matt Damon) asks his therapist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) if the ducks were some sort of fetish in a ‘taster’s choice moment between guys’. While that sequence went on to prove him wrong, ‘Chasing my Mamet Duck’ did nothing to bust an existing conviction of mine – that I was about to watch a bunch of people try too hard. The conversations were stressful, even though the scenarios turned out to be pretty inventive. The setup and performances helped raise a few laughs while the dialogue turned it to a grimace. I wish Indian (English) theatre wouldn’t try to emulate its Western counterpart. It’s like the duck that tries to fly with its wings clipped – it falls too hard.
The play featured three motifs. One was director Karthik Kumar ‘breaking the Fourth wall’ carrying out overwrought audience-interactions. The second is a duo in different scenarios, belting different forms and structures of ‘Mamet-speak’ (a form of dialogue popularized by the American playwright). Thirdly, we had a couple of video clips which tended to not only disrupt the actual flow of the play, but also destroyed its idea as a whole. It’s one thing to reveal the concept, it’s another to just throw it away. ‘Chasing my Mamet Duck’ did exactly the latter and seemed happy to do so. To add to this, we had pianist Anil Srinivasan fill in with interludes that got redundant after a while – the play crossed the delicate balance between adequacy in music and an over-score. He had me wishing for that elusive silence that the play began with – something that was harder to get than the fact that ‘the Hindu’ actually included this play in its Theater Fest roster.
Nevertheless, the play was verbose despite its share of glitches (like using ‘seeked’ instead of ‘sought’ and ‘juxtapositioning’ instead of ‘juxtaposing’). It was, in a teeny-tiny little way, a fair bit of fun; the no-brainer kind of fun. The audience, for most part, would not have understood what was going on. I myself had a pair of neighbours who were busy texting on their mobiles, even at the time they were not asked to do so – let me not get down to telling you any more about them. The runtime was too much given the lack of substance, which diluted it even further. Still, it had a fairly continuous narrative that seemed well-motivated, at least until Karthik started pleading with ‘fifteen more minutes of patience’ and then ‘ten more minutes’, consuming a half-hour in that process. That too for sequences which weren’t worth the stretch and served to distort the whole idea of the play. It’s like we walked into a public service announcement – nothing could make it more pretentious.
‘Chasing my Mamet Duck’ takes a whole, flawless, magnificent Duck and breaks it to chunks with a crucial lot missing. The whole point of it, in short. And It then proclaims vegetarianism. Of course, I speak in metaphors – after all, I did sit through a 'child's play' that liked to call itself smart.