“We were looking for a play with strong female characters,” said Meiyin Wang ’02, one of the lead actresses in the Terrance McNally play, “The Perfect Ganesh.” In this aspect, the play was altogether successful — sadly, in others, it was not.
Two very different women — one childish with excitement over new discoveries, the other rigidly composed and unemotional — find forgiveness, redemption and renewal during a trip to India. The themes of the play are ambitious, ranging from coping with prejudice and grief, to the true nature of friendship.
Unfortunately, it is at this “poignant” point that the wheels start to come off the train. The play, which was just shy of two and a half hours, was too long to be engaging and too mired in its own aspirations to be excellent. This was not, however, due to a lack of trying. Director Jeffrey Little ’02 and producer Dan Guando ’04 both do an admirable job of working with a difficult script that jumps from hotels to trains and then finally to the Taj Mahal.
It is indeed a director’s nightmare, but the minimalist set designer, Arnaldo Fabela ’02, and Little both work with the set complications and sparse script with rare aplomb. The entirely convincing costume design, done by Caroline Duncan ’02, also complemented what was, on the whole, an excellent production. The real star of the crew, however, was undoubtedly Samantha Trepel ’02 whose brilliantly subtle light design added scenic legitimacy to the almost nonexistent set.
In the broad, dark expanse of painful self-analysis and rediscovery, there were two bright spots of light — Jackson Loo ’02 and Kendrick Strauch ’04. Even after the play, it is difficult to say who did a better job between the two. In a novel display of versatility, good timing and stellar acting, they both effortlessly steal the show. Playing no fewer than seven roles each (I lost count after a while), they seamlessly move from one character to the next without losing credibility.
The two main female roles were also played very believably, if a tad stiffly, by Wang and Erika MacDonald ’02. Whatever real power or emotion McNally’s overly dramatic play had was due entirely to the thoughtful and consistent acting of these two actresses. With this wealth of acting and production talent, the mediocrity of “The Perfect Ganesh” is all the more disappointing, as well as perplexing. The superior cast, exquisite light design and excellent staging all could not save a play that was ultimately too hopelessly grandiose in its ambitions. And so “The Perfect Ganesh” isn’t perfect — even though it has all the perfect ingredients.