Becca Kelly’s ’03 “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” is both well set and well performed. Based on Salman Rushdie’s 1991 novella by the same name, it is the story of Haroun, a young boy in a sad city who seeks the secret of storytelling.
With May approaching and the end of classes nearing, it’s time to move the theater outdoors. Problem is, New Haven weather is not that cooperative. “Haroun” — performed in the courtyard adjoining SSS — does run the risk of encountering some rather chilly weather, but the colorful acting and costumes, along with the feeling of being on green grass, makes it feel like summer.
The action centers around a motley cast of characters headed up by the young Haroun (Emily Di Capua ’03), who represents a fresh young face in a gloomy, modern world. Haroun travels around numerous worlds named after letters in the alphabet, searching desperately for various treasures. He seeks not only the King’s lost Gift of Gab, but also the symbol of the plot’s essence itself — the special water that makes storytelling possible.
Di Capua is a good, convincing actress: she makes you feel the naivete and the innocence of her character. Indeed, the director uses her to illuminate one of the central criticisms in Rushdie’s work — that of corrupt politicians, of demagogues, who abuse religion and ideology to oppress the people.
In one scene, Haroun journeys to visit the country of politico Snooty Buttoo (Bikram Chatterji ’03), who is desperately seeking the help of popular political leader Rashid Khalifa (Maeve Herbert ’04), who can win votes because the people love him. Buttoo — a comical knock at the typical bureaucrat — is a man filled with hot air, and the stench of gloom pervades him. In the midst of this great corruption, it is Di Capua’s idealism that shines in brightly.
Other talented performances include those by General Kitab (Aryesh Mukherjee), the man in charge of finding the King’s lost Gift of Gab, and by Mudra (Hsien-Yeang Seow), who practices the ancient Indian communication form of the same name. Throughout the performance reigns the atmosphere of a foreign land, removed from today’s realities, doused in exoticism.
Mr. Sengupta (also Mukherjee) is the opposite of Kitab, and as such represents the great transformation of growing up. A “clerkish” sort of man concerned mostly with facts, the caricature of an odd British utilitarian, Sengupta will have none of Haroun’s adventures. And he doesn’t like the fact that his wife, Oneeta Sengupta (Caroline Johnstone), tenders him affection. He’s the sort of fellow who answers phones at the IRS.
The Walrus — inspired by the Beatles song on the Magical Mystery Tour LP — is another cold Combine boss. He mellows in the end, though, and grants Haroun his final wish: a cold beer and a happy ending. He gets it, and so does his town, which regains its name in the end.
Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Courtyard behind SSS
Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.