By Deepa Gahlot
Written by Shiv Subrahmanyam and directed by Divya Jagdale, Coffee In The Canteen works well in the many alternative theatre spaces opening up in the city. The four-actor play can be done on a bare set with basic props, and few costume changes, but also be scaled up for an auditorium. It’s the simple and pleasant plot that makes it worth watching, not the external embellishment.
The four characters study in college and often hang out in the canteen—that has just four stools as props, and some crockery arranged on the wall.
Rishi (Kavin Dave), a science nerd takes a shine to baseball fanatic Rita (Amruta Sant), who hangs out with her Porsche-driving childhood buddy Sameer (Anant Joshi), but not quite sure if they are seeing each other. Rita’s best friend and confidante is Nusrat (Sarika Singh). Rita laughingly bats away Rishi’s eager attempts to befriend her, but in the end his persistence pays off. He is allowed to tag along with the other three when the go to see a movie or to a pub afterwards.
It is established that rich kid Sameer is passionate about dance (Joshi does a fine tap dance sequence) not really interested in his father’s business; also their parents in the same social circle expect that Sameer and Rita will marry some day. Rita is drawn to Rishi’s sense of humour, his encouragement of her dream to be a basketball player, and his dogged devotion to her, which leads him to be her coach and one-man cheer leader. Rishi took up science because it was expected of him, but he’d rather be a stand-up comic. The studious-looking Nusrat dreams of establishing her own business.
The play just follows them as they negotiate each day towards the time when their carefree student days will end and they will be forced to make decisions about their life. When Rishi asks they are able to say what their dreams are, but the story does not move towards a film-like happy ending where everybody gets what they want, in the way they imagined. The four actors do their parts competently, and manage to portray the energy and optimism of youth.
With lights, sound and music used efficiently to enhance the upbeat mood of the play, Coffee In The Canteen turns out to be enjoyable, even with its minimalistic style of staging.
Coffee In The Canteen
Directed by: Divya Jagdale
Cast: Kavin Dave, Sarika Singh, Amruta Sant, Anant Joshi
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best known entertainment journalists. A National Awardwinning film critic, Deepa has watched more movies and theatre than most people in the country. An author of several books on film and theatre, she has had an extremely successful run as head of theatre and film at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, during which she helped nurture several original productions. For Xyngr, Deepa Gahlot reviews theatre and cinema.