It's a moral question that professionals all over the globe constantly face: Are you willing to screw over people to get ahead? And it's a question that's gut-wrenchingly posed in Abhijat Joshi's Bricks and Lyrics, the latest offering by local South Asian stage troupe Shunya Theatre.
Bricks centers on Sanjay, a hotshot real estate developer in his mid-twenties -- think a young, Indian Donald Trump wannabe, sans the unfortunate hair -- whose company is planning a massive corporate mega-development in the Indian state of Gujarat. The only obstacle is Sandhya, a 70-year-old woman who refuses to leave her home. No sweat, say Sanjay's cutthroat bosses, who suggest killing her to get the property. But when Sanjay learns that Sandhya was married to Anaamik, a local revolutionary poet killed in the bloody riots that took place after India's independence, he promises to make her home into a shrine to the fallen hero.
"Of course, he's going to destroy the house when he gets it," says Soham Mehta, the play's director, who co-wrote the popular Indian-American flick Where's the Party Yaar? The savvy Sandhya agrees to Sanjay's plan -- with one exception. Sanjay must resurrect the memory of Anaamik by finding and publishing a lost book of his poems. "She's using Sanjay as much as he's using her," Mehta notes.
What follows are jumps between present and past in which Sanjay witnesses Anaamik's sadly romantic love story with Sandhya and his unflinching desire to do right even in the face of death. Credit the tragic drama to award-winning playwright Abhijat Joshi, a Bollywood screenwriter known for creating sweeping epics. (Some Joshi trivia: When Shaquille O'Neal was featured on MTV's Cribs, he proudly declared that Joshi's film Mission Kashmir was one of his favorite DVDs.)
"This play may be Indian, but the themes are universal," says Mehta. "Sanjay is facing a basic conflict: 'If I want to make it, what rules will I bend and how much will I sacrifice my ideals?' " Let's hope he picks the right brick to build on.