Free Outgoing: A Play About Gender Roles

19 Feb

Free Outgoing

By Anupama Chandrasekhar.  Directed by Snehal Desai.  Until March 12 at the David Henry Hwang Theater at the Union Center for the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Calif. 90012. (213) 625-7000,

For theatergoers who like tension, Free Outgoing by Anupama Chandrasekhar has a lot.  The tension builds and builds, however, with no denouement.  While no classical denouement exists, the plot moves forward rapidly with short scenes and an economy of words to Chandrasekhar’s credit.

It’s 2007.  The setting is the city of Chennai, India.  The plot centers on a family, whose 15-year-old daughter, Deepa, is caught on video having sex with her boyfriend, who shoots the video.  The video goes viral, because of the boyfriend sends the video to his male friends.  Once the video is on the web, the mass media further publicizes video, which enrages the population against Deepa and by extension, the whole family.

The main character is Malini, the family’s matriarch played by Anna Khaja.  Malini, at first, is in denial about her daughter’s willingness to participate in sex and the shooting of the video.  Soon, however, Malini realizes the truth.  While Khaja had a couple of missteps in her performance, she transfixed audience for most of her performance.

While the character, Malini, is rounded, the other characters are flat, unchanging.

Sharan, the son, is played by Kapil Talwalkar and Ramesh, Malini’s, awkward friend from work, is played by Anil Kumar.  The performances of Talwalkar and Kumar are well executed.

The play addresses the hypocrisy of gender roles not only in India, but in the West.  For this reason alone the play is worth seeing.  Because there are no scenes of sex, adults can bring their teenage boys and girls to the play as a means to discuss societal gender roles with their children, if the parents are so inclined.

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