As people walked into the Engineered Air Theatre to see A Brimful of Asha which officially opened the High Performance Rodeo on January 9 creator director and actor Ravi Jain stood at the front of the stage urging everybody to come up and get a samosa. Onstage on a table between two chairs were two plates piled high with the tasty treats with two stacks of napkins beside. Jain shook hands with audience members as they came up introducing himself and directing them to go and say hi to his mom Asha.
This personal touch was fitting for what is a very personal story. Jain and his mother are essentially inviting people into their home their life and more specifically a family dispute.
A Brimful of Asha relives the story of Jain’s parents efforts to find him a suitable bride. Asha explains that she is Indian but her son is Canadian. She feels a tremendous amount of pressure both personally and culturally to see him married. She believes it is best for him and "the right thing to do." Jain has his own plans. He wants time to establish his career in theatre (another choice his parents find questionable) then perhaps get married to a girl of his own choosing once he has had a chance to get to know her.
Jain and his mom tell the story onstage taking turns narrating their version of events with lively arguments between. The storytelling ocassionally drags with too much detail about specific encounters with potential brides (and their families) but the duo is quick to get back to the banter which is where most of the laughs and well as the understanding is generated.
The story may be familiar on the surface but hearing the personal details and struggles of both parties is what makes it both fresh and riveting. Those debates and the chemistry between the calm but determined mother and her frustrated son are authentic and good-humoured. But there is no doubt that at the time when this was occuring it was heartwrenching for all involved. It is a testament to Jain and his mom who is not a professional actor that the conversation often comes off as spontaneous.
A Brimful of Asha is a hilarious and touching story about cultural and generational conflict and a great start to the Rodeo. Unfortunate if you don’t have tickets you’re out of luck — the remaining two shows have sold out.