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Sari to Skin
The Apothocary at the Trading Post
July 19th at 3 pm
July 23 at 10:15 pm
July 25th at 6:15 pm
They say: “Get intimate. Enjoy an evening of conversation and poetry in this one woman show combining a dancer’s grace with language laced in feminine sensuality. Join in her discovery.”
Caroline’s take: Part monologue, part performance poetry, and part traditional Indian dance, Neelam Patel delivers a deeply personal show that attempts to find some middle ground between her American and Indian heritage. As much as she brings the audience into her stories, the result is most therapeutic for Patel herself: Using the performance as a form of release, she shares her experiences, all of them true, as a way of connecting with her past.
The show starts with a series of monologues, beginning in infancy when Patel’s family immigrated to New Jersey. Adolescence ensues: There are parties with boys, conflicts at school, and disagreements with her parents about Bon Jovi. When she starts describing her need to fit in among the big-haired blondes however, the reflections turn inward and you can hear Patel reverting to her teenage mentality to tell the story. That she is so in touch with her ideas and emotions at different times in her life is powerful and makes the show all the more poignant.
As the show proceeds, the monologues transition into performance poems that Patel admits yet more personal. A particularly intense poem about a passionate relationship with a boyfriend goes over well, but she does not hit her stride until she fuses the aspects of both of her cultures together. In “Nationhood,” she admits to not feeling at home in either culture—-she’s at once too Indian and too American. But instead of dwelling on the frustration, she sees her nation as the path she creates everyday. This acceptance of her experience gives the performance even more power.
Incorporating traditional Indian dance is important to Patel (she only started performing her poems after she quit dancing due to an injury) and even though it’s nice to watch, it does not add significantly to the concept of the show. The dancing allows the audience to step back rather than remain immersed in the stories she tells. Really, her dances are another narrative altogether, but when each element comes together at the end, you finally understand Patel’s whole story.
See it if: You want to know more about Indian culture, laugh about coming of age in New Jersey, or enjoy Bollywood music.
Skip it if: You’re not interested in 45 minutes of serious self-reflection.