|Treya's Last Dance
Susan Gordon, (310) 871-0621
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Hudson Guild Theatre, Los Angeles
Bonnie Priever Curtain Up
Reviewer: Bonnie Priever
Treya’s Last Dance, now in its run at the Hudson Theatre, is a stunning one woman show that amuses, titillates, and disturbs us all in one. It is written and performed by the multi-talented Shyam Bhatt and directed sharply by Poonam Basu. At show’s start, the audience is pleasantly introduced to Treya through her dance, Indian, Bollywood style, maybe her last traditional steps. Quickly after, we witness her morphing into a denizen of London, trying to understand her complex mix of sexual, emotional, and intellectual needs in a society that has deemed her a pariah. She plays many of the characters she runs into, or the people in her life, and she is a master at revealing the extreme uniqueness of each persona.
As a writer, she paints a disturbing portrait of discrimination, rather than society embracing diversity. The dialogue is rich and beautifully visual, as she explains, “in the process of moving countries, we’re learning about each other. Getting to know you. Getting to love you.” She displays the vagaries of a duplicitous society, steeped in the puritanical veneer, juxtaposed with the multi-cultural populace that almost seems at war with themselves. To bury her grief over her brother, she eats a bucket of scones and then fears the ramifications.
As an actress, she shrugs, cajoles, and prances with a combination of pixie condemnation against her enemies and a yogic calm, a signature characteristic of Indian culture. Her aura will amaze you, as it did me. At show’s end, she comes to the realization that it’s best to see the world twofold: “in geometric shapes, and also filled with flowers and petals.”
Shyam Bhatt is a professional film, television, and theatre actress, raised and trained in London. She has been seen in The Domestic Crusaders, as Fatima, and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, as Gloria, and has won ‘Pick of the Fringe’ at the Hollywood Fringe Fest.
Poonam Basu has appeared in over 25 stage productions, in places as varied as New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Madrid, also a Fringe award winner. She has produced six short films and has won Best Experimental Film award at Vegas Movie Awards.
Shyam Bhatt has done an exemplary job in this play, a challenging statement on presenting Treya as a strong woman, not afraid to speak her truth, in an environment where a proper, dignified Stepford Wife is the preferred norm. In the words of playwright/poet Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Treya’ s pain and angst is so real and visceral, as she battles for her voice to me heard. Go see it and you’ll be charmed at first sight.
Through October 23 www.hudsontheatre.com (323) 856-4252
Hudson Guild Theatre, Los Angeles
Lyons’ Views, News and Reviews
Reviewer: Lisa Lyons
It was shortly after the British Raj released its grip on the people of India in 1947, after nearly 100 years of rule, that working-class Indian families began emigrating to London. The subsequent blending of the two radically different cultures - the Brits and those fleeing the poor economy in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh - was filled with battles and bruised feelings; the uncomfortable relationship continues to this day despite the growing diversity of a country stretched to its limits, both economically and socially. This is the world portrayed in the entertaining one woman show Treya’s Last Dance now playing at Hollywood's Hudson Guild Theatre.
It is in a middle class, working neighborhood of London that we meet Treya, a twenty-something who appears on stage draped in traditional Indian dance garb; the music starts but she falls behind in her routine, fleeing the stage in frustration and shame. When she returns, dressed like a typically trendy East End girl, she addresses the audience in a confessional style monologue. We learn about her family, particularly her demanding mother and annoying brother, her dead-end job, and her lonely social life that pushes her to attend an excruciating speed dating event at a local club.
Shyam Bhatt, who also wrote the play, portrays the hapless Treya, a bundle of nerves, tics and tumbling words. Her energy carries the audience with her on an emotional journey from confusion to grief to hopefully a happy ending. While the show runs a little over an hour, it flies by thanks to Bhatt and the sensitive direction of Poonam Basu, herself an actor and writer who has appeared on stages in LA, Boston, Phoenix and Madrid. Basu has also produced six short films, one which just won an award at the recent Vegas Movie Awards.
While much of Treya's observations on life initially seem simplistic and crowd-sourced, the more we learn about her, we see that there is a deeply felt sorrow that becomes clearer as the show goes on. Her efforts to find a "life partner" make more sense in light of her loss. She faces her past and her future with indefatigable humor and a pugnacious, "Bolshy" attitude. One has no doubt that Treya will find her center and move forward in life as only she can.
One small note: Bhatt uses the unusual and sometimes unintelligible argot of East Indian working-class youth, so some of the jokes and her comments might sail over the heads of certain audience members. As I grew up in the UK, I was familiar with some of the terms she used and found them endearingly perfect for her character.
According to program notes, Bhatt has written a second play, which she developed at the prestigious Kali Theatre Writers program in London. "Wisdom Teeth" will be staged next year, and I will be interested to see the next phase of this talented woman's artistic journey.
The creative team for "Treya's Last Dance" includes music composed by Archita Kumar, lighting and sound by Steve Pope, voiceovers/vocals by Arun Kamath, and production assistant Jana Dimitrievska.
If you want to spend an hour or so with a complex, whip-smart, sexually aware young woman with attitude, Treya is your Dream Girl!
Bridewell Theatre, London
A Younger Theatre
Reviewer: Ettie Bailey-King
Packing thought-provoking theatre into parcels of just forty-five minutes, the Bridewell Theatre serves up lunchbox-sized slices of the arts. Cradled between office blocks and museums, with city workers and tourists from around the world in the audience, it’s packed with diversity. Not a bad venue, then, for a show about the sometimes-painful incompatibility between our individual and collective identities in a multicultural world.
Treya’s Last Dance is a delicious treat for the lunch hour: whip-crack sharp, funny and touching. It’s a one-woman show that feels more like a million-strong Dickensian cast of characters. Shyam Bhatt gives voice to rasping old ladies, middle-aged Indian men, Afro-Caribbean preachers, bitchy cousins and howling seven-year-olds with breathless ease. Each of them is convincing and deeply charming. Bhatt is not only bang-on accurate but delivers her impressions with a kind of tender affection. Without both, her ethnicity-spanning impressions – okay, maybe just that homophobic black preacher – might play uncomfortably.
In under an hour, Bhatt’s performance builds the kind of character complexity you hope for in a feature film. Bhatt takes a simple conceit – a speed dating event in a dive bar – and uses it to shine a light on her protagonist’s past and present. Treya’s answers are directed straight towards us, as though we are her speed-dating companions. They are weird, frank, utterly unguarded vignettes. It’s a brilliant means of inducting us into her world, and something of a metaphor for the sudden intimacy between performer and audience. So credible is Bhatt’s awkward performance as Treya that one almost feels voyeuristic bearing witness to it all.
Bhatt’s script is sharp and well-observed. She draws excoriating portraits of a date who learnt all his charm “from Bollywood and porn”, the kind of bar that serves “red or white”, and a cousin with “maximum three brain cells”. This lends the play a robust and raucous tone, but beneath the surface it’s a more subtle affair. It’s delicate and deftly written: interwoven themes circle, touch and return throughout the piece. The metaphor of “lavender shortbread thins” transports Treya into her past – like a twee update on Proust’s Madeleine – towards her dead brother Thanvir. The motif of mild versus spicy food speaks to the tension between being both Indian and British, and the symbolism of Treya’s Ghunghroos (Indian classical dancing anklets with bells on) lingering in a dusty attic suggest the dangers of losing touch with one’s roots. These details lend Bhatt’s play a deeper poeticism beneath the witty mimicry and chortle-inducing one-liners.
Much has been made of the play’s LGBTQ focus. While it undoubtedly addresses the continuities and clashes between gay, British and Indian identities, Treya’s Last Dance is so much more than a play about being gay and Indian. It treats Asian LGBTQ issues and the prevalence of suicide with the great respect that they deserve, but it also manages to be a play about dancing, dating and the difficulties of a socially awkward Indian girl from Croydon.
Abrazo Interno at The Clemente, New York
Theatre Is Easy
Reviewer: Maria Paz Alegre
BOTTOM LINE: British Indian Treya hilariously stumbles through several wretched speed-dates, revealing the true depths of the sorrow and loss which lie beneath the humor.
Shyam Bhatt knows how to make a first impression! As the title character in Treya’s Last Dance, Bhatt bursts into the room clad in classical Indian dress as she expertly dances to the vibrant Indian music filling the room. She exudes strength and grace, however as the melodies continue, her confidence visibly wanes. Her face falls as her motions becomes unfocused and awkward.
This arc of explosive energy followed by uncertainty proves to be a theme which repeats itself throughout the production, and what better metaphor to describe the combination of romance and the immigrant diaspora? The impersonal speed-dating world provides the perfect opportunity for Treya (Shyam Bhatt) to prattle on about her life and make cringe-inducing blunders. With each invisible contestant Treya’s story unravels, revealing the reason for her odd behaviour: the person she loves the most is gone.
As Treya’s mask of quirky inelegance slips, she recounts the tragic story of her beloved brother’s struggle to exist in a world of old-world conservatism when surrounded by British modernity. Treya explains how the closeness of a community can become deadly when cultures clash. Her grief is so strong that she cannot even bear to say the name of the person she has lost; her heart-wrenching grief is palpable.
Shyam Bhatt has a gift for crafting well-defined characters in her invisible city. From the judgmental Indian grandmother, to the dodgiest suitor in London, to the emotional and enchanting Treya, Bhatt excels in creating a world of diverse people even though there is just one person on stage. Although It is a pleasure to watch the journey of her characters as she moves from the comic to the profound, there are shifts which happen too quickly and the foreshadowing borders on excessive. Perhaps this is because fifty minutes is an insufficient amount of time for a production with ambitious themes like culture shock and young death. There is no doubt that there is enough existing story and talent to keep the audience captivated, and a longer run time would ultimately benefit the piece. Bhatt is aided by Kate August's skilful lighting design, which expertly transforms the small and sparse playing area. One memorable scene compliments Bhatt’s absolute fury with interchanging lights used to create a devastating effect.
It’s been said that a foreign accent is a sign of bravery. In Treya’s Last Dance, it is evident that this bravery is strongest when supported by compassion and humor.
Abrazo Interno at The Clemente, New York
NY Theatre Guide
Reviewer: Jacquelyn Claire
Treya’s Last Dance is a meaty one-woman show that is the perfect vehicle for Shyam Bhatt to show her extraordinary talent.
We’re in Croydon, London, and Treya has resorted to speed dating after feeling the pressure from her parents to find a man. As each new potential partner parades past her with b get 5 minutes of concentrated gut punching episodes from her life. The innocuous questions elicit fragments of her unravelling world, which are both hysterically funny and devast circled she becomes a spinning top, unable to stop herself from losing control.
We will meet her parents, extended family, and friends, but her primary relationship is with her brother, who brings an eccentric elegance into her life. She colors each vignette wit 21st-century London, with all of its accents and cockney slang. Treya personifies the first-generation immigrant condition, where she is required to straddle both the British born as the Indian cultural heritage of her immediate family. She often falters around their expectations.
She expertly addresses issues from office politics to eye shagging in Harrods, from culturally stagnant rhetoric to individual fall out, from homophobia to the claustrophobia of close communities she lures us into her world with the skill of an adroit fly fisherman.
Bhatt is an electric performer, showing her intelligence in every emotional gear shift and in her ability to play superb comedy, as well as complex grief. She is an accomplished actress and able to inhabit the many characters she plays with believability and well-observed characterization. She has funny bones that make you snort with laughter, and then she takes you spots that leave you bereft. And on top of everything, she dances beautifully! She is also a powerful wordsmith, able to craft a text of funny self-effacing humor, as well as moments of agony.
Director Tiffany Nicole Greene has ensured there are not only moments of frenetic hilarity, but also ones of stillness and shattering honesty, with more layers than a Magnolia Banana Pudding.
This production is essential, which has great acting, a brilliant script, well-executed direction, and left me with tears rolling down my face at the end.
Bridewell Theatre, London
The Reviews Hub
Reviewer: James Bartholomeusz
Treya’s Last Dance – Bridewell Theatre, London
Writer: Shyam Bhatt
Director: Tiffany Nicole Greene
It may well be true that, as Gayatri Spivak once proclaimed, great victories against oppression are being won in the realm of critical theory. The insoluble problem, however, (as at least two generations of humanities scholars have now found) is that no amount of conceptual postulation in academic journals and jargon-suffused blog posts can be relied upon to carry over into real social change. Rather, it seems that the sophistication of critical theory has developed at the same pace as its isolation from the real world; prescient but clunky ideas such as ‘intersectionality’ still lack a popular idiom to carry them over into the public consciousness. These ideas require a voice like that of Shyam Bhatt: colloquial, irreverent, yet nonetheless bristling with anger against injustice.
Treya’s Last Dance is much smarter than its title or marketing might suggest. In the form of dramatic monologue with its wandering reminiscences, careful pacing of revelations and bittersweet realism, it somewhat strangely echoes Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads – if Bennett had defenestrated decorum and written a mouthy, horny second-generation south-Londoner. The eponymous dance little more than a conceit: the actual setting is a dubious speed-dating night at which Bhatt’s Treya gradually reveals her family, the mingled fulfilments and oppressions that come with being part of ‘the immigrant community’, and her tragic relationship with her brother.
At times it feels as though there is too much peripheral baggage (like the dancing, the speed-dating soon recedes into the background) yet the central flow of both Bhatt’s writing and performance is superb. Notably, she is deft at managing cultural stereotypes in a way that avoids both racial profiling and preening political correctness – a rare skill indeed. This, surely, is what the various highfalutin theories of social oppression are lacking: an organic, unpretentious presentation of human experience, spoken in the language of ordinary people and – crucially – refusing to take itself too seriously. Blessedly, there was not a single mention of intersectionality throughout. Between the passive-aggression of a homophobic extended family and a gay couple arriving at a fancy-dress party as Achilles and Patroclus, there was just no need.
Hudson Guild Theatre, Los Angeles
Reviewer: Paul Myrvold
In Treya’s Last Dance, actress/playwright Shyam Bhatt delivers with boundless energy a one-woman show that is filled with joy, angst, laughs and sadness—the whole gamut of human experience as rendered in the story of one human being. Treya is a young, native-born Londoner of Indian extraction. She is smart, glib, and bubbling with energy, as she tells the story of her life as a brown girl who deals with her immigrant parents’ and relatives’ expectations that she will find the “life partner” every girl deserves, as well as all the other aspects of the struggle to just fit in.
At lights up, Treya comes on garbed in traditional dress, with ankle bells chiming, and delivers a delightful performance of traditional Indian dance. Her performance is awesomely precise until a misstep occurs that won’t allow her to get back into the rhythm. She stops and flees the stage exiting past the audience running towards the street. In a miracle of quick-change magic, she returns from the back of the stage a scant minute later garbed in black pants and a white top. With a dense Cockney accent that would do Eliza Doolittle proud, Treya begins the story of her life, loves, and struggles with great humor and searing pathos. The performance is riveting from beginning to end.
The actor/playwright has written in a cunning way to deal with the difficult chore of finding love. Treya attends a speed-dating event, where men and women sit and chat with prospective date partners for a short period of time. She pours her heart out to men who are dull, rude and loathsome. What she reveals is often hilarious, sometimes sad. She often breaks away from the event to deepen the tale of her family and, especially, that of her brother.
Treya’s Last Dance, under the sure-handed direction of Poonam Basu, benefits from the excellent creative team with music composed by Archita Kumar, lighting and sound by Steve Pope, voiceovers/vocals by Arun Kamath. Jana Dimitrievska is the production assistant.
This theatergoer fell in love with Shyam Bhatt at first sight. It is a privilege to have been able to spend time with her.
Outlandish Cat Productions’ Treya’s Last Dance runs through October 23. See it while you can at Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles.
" This play was Amazing. I recommend everyone go see it. This was my first time going to a play with only 1 cast member. I thought Shyam did a great job portraying other characters throughout the play and giving us insight on her story. "
"Oh my gosh - wow - this play - where do I begin?! Treya’s Last Dance was a blast!!! We were treated by Shyam Bhatt (actor and writer) to a rollercoaster ride through a speed dating event in London, which was maybe metaphor (?) for the actual issue being dealt with by Treya, the heroine - her brother's death. Shyam's writing is fantastic - funny, highly intelligent, accurate and poignant, and her acting is beautiful. She really brought each character Treya came into contact with to life (not least Treya herself) and held the audience's attention for her entire time on stage - I didn't realise how quickly the time was going! Poonam Basu (director) did a great job with this, using lighting to create place, mood and atmosphere, and introduced it as a fictional story. I started out with tears of laughter and ended with tears of empathy. What more could you want? Go see this piece while it's on! We need more of this kind of work. "
"Treya’s Last Dance is a clever take on cultural identity in modern-day London. We go on a journey through her tumultuous time at speed dating all while reminiscing about a close bond she had in her life and the deep loss she's experienced. The comedic moments interspersed with dramatic make this production thought-provoking and relatable, particularly to children of immigrants with strong cultural backgrounds. Shyam Bhatt's performance is incredibly multi-dimensional in her commitment to the characters she emulates. She does not falter in her character convictions and is thorough in presenting pathos in the role. Treya’s Last Dance warrants multiple viewings as you discover new nuances in the storytelling that is so uniquely Treya. "
Wonderful, impressive and wonderfully impressive! A must-see show!
It's great to spend the evening with Shyam and see her story.
I had the pleasure of seeing this opening night in Los Angeles. Superbly written, acted, and directed. Thoroughly engaging the entire way through. Hilarious and heartfelt. What a treat!
A one-woman show filled with humor and emotion, fueled by a magnetic performance from Shyam Bhatt and deft direction by Poonam Basu!!! More than worth the price of admission! Do yourself a favor and experience this wonderful play! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
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