Directed by Rishikesh Nadkarni, California Suite was performed to an appreciative audience, on Saturday and Sunday, May 7th and 8th, 2011. This bittersweet comedy written by playwright Neil Simon was presented by Barking Dog Productions with an all-youngster-cast and crew.
The audience peeked into the lives of five couples that stay in a suite in The Beverly Hills Hotel in California. Clever dialogues about a divorced couple fighting for the custody of their daughter, a man trying to hide an unconscious prostitute he had just found in his bed, from his wife, two couples who end up fighting on a holiday was enacted with vigour by the young team in four acts, sending the audience into peals of laughter.
"It was a witty and well thought out play that was supported by a wonderful cast and crew," said Ananya Revanna, who sat in the first row to watch it. "They brought out the little dramas of daily life that most people find trivial and made them interesting."
Others however felt that the play’s opening was rather dull, with a monotonous first act picking up pace later. They felt the play could have been shortened a little, altering the script as well because a lot of people didn’t understand the very American references.
It was a first-time experience for the cast and crew. Although most of them had acted before in school and college plays, they did not have much professional experience.
"Acting under a director was definitely a learning experience," says Noella Ferraro, who played an Academy Award nominated actress in the third act. "I learnt a lot about standing on stage and voice modulation, but more than anything else about dealing with other people’s egos, finding the middle ground between having it your way and listening to others and interpersonal relations."
Mukut Chatterjee, a final year student of B.Com. at Christ University, played the role of the Philadelphian husband in the second act. Although he has his Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) exams in another two weeks, California Suite was his priority. "It would all be worth it even if I fail," he says. "I even spent my entire birthday on April 29 rehearsing for it – the first time I’ve ever done such a thing. I enjoyed it thoroughly."
Barking Dog Productions is the theatrical wing of Boulevard View, an entertainment company owned by Vikram Hemanthan (he is a dog lover with 14 dogs, hence the name Barking Dog!) Although Boulevard View has worked with plays before, this is the first event for Barking Dog Productions.
Hemanthan, a young software engineer with some years of experience in theatre, feels this production is not his own but as belonging to all those who have worked in it – the cast and crew, the interns who have worked all day and night for month and a half, the director and all the well-wishers who have helped them out.
"I’m really blessed to have such a mature group of youngsters working," he says. "They put in their heart and soul into the production, even though the girls from JNC finished their exams just a day before the first performance."
Although Barking Dog Productions had a hard time looking for sponsors this time, they are planning big on their next production. Now that they have some experience, they are looking at producing a musical with children.