Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ayravana Flies or A Pretty Dish

Since I did not start this endeavor until January 29, I have 28 days to make up if I want to read a play a day for every day of 2015. So, I added a short play to today's reading:

Play #4 (Makeup #1) Ayravana Flies or A Pretty Dish by Sheila Callaghan

I am writing part of dissertation about some of Sheila Callaghan's plays, so I have a lot to say about her. But this little play is different from the plays I'm exploring in my dissertation. This is a sweet little two-hander featuring monologues by a chef named Olivia and one of her customers - an Elephant. Olivia has been known for her exciting, experimental dishes, and today she decides to make a vegetable stew flavored with Cumin. She is beside herself with excitement. And when she describes the dish to the Elephant, he is whisked back to his Indian birthplace, and he enthusiastically orders the dish. An airport employee, the Elephant ponders the myth of Ayravana the flying elephant, whose wings were taken from him after he broke a branch he had landed on, and landed on a vagrant instead. The Elephant wants to be able to fly again, but he is afraid. And he feels that this fear is letting down all the people back home. But when chokes on the stew... and when Olivia accidentally manages to save him... he experiences an epiphany of sorts, allowing him to take on an adventure. So he and Olivia decide to travel the world (by air) together. It's really quite adorable in many ways... until the very end, when the culinarily adventurous Olivia, while pondering all of the exciting flavors she will experience in her travels, turns her thoughts to the possibilities of recipes centered around elephant. Even in the face of their shared awakening and adventure, her desires for the exotic may well overcome the connection they felt. It's a little wicked turn that is only expressed in the stage directions and, therefore, in the performance. Olivia's ulterior ideas are never spoken in the script, so it would be interesting to see how they might be perceived by an audience.

The plays of Callaghan's that I am currently working on are generally much more violent or grotesque or unsettling than this poetic, imaginative, mythic little piece about dreams and who they're for. The Elephant, for example, had promised the people back in India that he would find a way to fly again - he lives up to that promise to them and to himself. Olivia, on the other hand, seems to be chasing more selfish fulfillment.

It's a cool little play, based in a neat little piece of legend that was unfamiliar to me. I really dug it!

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