Wednesday, April 22, 2015

O Guru Guru Guru

Play #104 - O Guru Guru Guru or why I don't want to go to yoga class with you by Mallery Avidon

First of all... amazing title, am I right?!?

This play is divided up into three sections. The first is a lecture by Lila, attempting to explain why she does not want to go to yoga class with you. She goes through the long history of her childhood in an Ashram - actually it turns out to be THE Ashram featured in Elizabeth Gilbert's book Eat/Pray/Love. She talks about growing up with her hippie parents, living in a communal setting learning to love chanting and meditation. The twelve years she spent as part of the Ashram were some of the clearest of her life - though there were times when she would return to her life in the "real world," where her classmates didn't quite get the girl who kept disappearing to India for months at a time. But as she weaves the intricate, intimate story of the Ashram, she explains that, for her, Yoga used to be a profound spiritual experience, and it is not something she wants to just do with a bunch of suburbanites with their matching yoga mat/bag/shoes.

The second section leads the audience through a Satsang (Sanskrit for Company of Truth). The Darshan girls (the girls who are in charge of decorating and leading the proceedings) each take a turn sharing experiences with different elements of the life of the Ashram - personal stories of service and meditation and chanting, etc. The coolest part of this section is that the audience is invited to participate in the experience. The space should be completely transformed from the lecture hall in the first scene so that it now resembles the Ashram. Some of them are invited to remove their shoes and sit on pillows on the floor. They are led in chanting and even meditation. It would be a pretty cool theatrical experience.

In the third section, Lila is on the set of Eat/Pray/Love as an extra, sitting beside Julia Roberts as the next shot is prepared. As they wait, they begin to talk about Julia's life (in particular her shifting priorities that have moved from awesome movie life to her husband and kids). Lila talks to her a little about the Ashram, and about her overall unhappiness and restlessness, and Julia listens kindly, offering insight and advice... and even some tacos.

The play is sort of wonderful in its desire to make sense of the way the Ashram tries to make sense of the world. The writing is so beautifully natural - Lila feels very real to me. The way she searches for words is so familiar and carefully choreographed by the writer. And, this is probably the least I've disliked Julia Roberts in a good long while!

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