Monthly Archive for: ‘March, 2013’
DISCONNECT: Comic-Drama by Anupama Chandrasekhar and directed by Rick Lombardo. San Jose Repertory Theatre (SJR), 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose (Between South 2nd & 3rd Streets). 408.367.7255 or www.sjrep.com. March 27 – April 14, 2013
DISCONNECT AT SAN JOSE REP VIVID ACTING & DIRECTING
Have you ever wondered what is happening at the other end of the telephone line when you are talking to a company web site that has out-sourced its staff to India? My only exposure to Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)has been requests for technical help and the experience has been a mixture of elation and frustration. In Anupama Chandrasekhar’s depiction of the India end of the telephone line emphasizes the frustration that invades the lives of the workers. That frustration also invades the audience with the cacophony of overlapping dialog causing the vivid acting and directing to lose some of its luster.
Disconnect had its world premiere at the Royal Court theatre in London in 2009 that is also the time frame of the action and the place is a call center in the city of Chennai. This call center is named ironically True Blue and is the collection agency for bad credit card debt that has been farmed out to them by a major credit corporation. We learn that there is great pressure to increase collections or they may lose the account to a call center in the Philippines.
In the introductory scene Jyothi (Devon Ahmed) the titular supervisor has summoned Avenish (Rajesh Bose) an older lower level manager for the New York accounts to her office. The office is adorned with smiley faces and mundane uplifting phrases. His staff has not been meeting the collection goals set for him and using every cliché reason in the books she banishes him from his cherished office with a window (even though it overlooks a garbage dump), to the smaller Illinois section on the windowless fourth floor. It is a degrading demotion that he accepts with dignity.
In India where 50 percent of the population is under 25, there are 4 million college graduates a year. These graduates have been taught English and are the source of workers for the BPOs. Speaking English without an accent is highly desirable and the workers often take English sounding names. The three young characters Chandrasekhar has created are emblematic of that group. When it is daytime in the United States it is nighttime in India thus the three callers are working at night with a disruption of their social lives.
The character that causes the major conflict is Roshan (Imran Sheikh) who has mastered the art speaking without an Indian accent using the name of Ross Adams and is the most successful in the drab office with the only color being a red nonfunctioning Coca-Cola dispenser. His erstwhile girlfriend Vidya (Sharone Sayegh) works as Vicki Lewis and Giri (Ray Singh) became Gary Evans. Their personal interactions take up most of the conflict but it is their verbal contact with the deadbeats who are defaulting on their credit card debt on the other end of the telephone lines that drive the story.
Ross unceremoniously has dumped Vicki and fallen in love via the phone line with a Sarah who owes $23,000. This long distance psychological infatuation causes him to gain unauthorized access to the credit card data bank to erase her debt. That bit of chicanery does not go unnoticed. Vicki’s trauma derives from the suicide of one of her callers that occurs while she is on the phone with him. Gary has a problem of being over-extended on his credit card becoming one of the ‘dead beats’ he calls during working hours. Avinash is assigned to sort out the mess. All this leads to overly dramatic confrontation scenes and the penultimate scene ends on a strange note with the drab office decorated for a Fourth of July (??an American holiday) party and the cast in garish costumes. There is an epilog that leaves the audience confused with delayed clapping at the end of the one hour and 40 minutes without intermission.
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com
Disconnect 1: (l to r) Call center supervisor Avinash (Rajesh Bose) receives feedback from his manager, Jyothi (Devon Ahmed) about his job performance in San Jose Rep’s West Coast premiere of Disconnect.
Disconnect 2: (l to r) Ross (Imran Sheikh) celebrates closing a sale while colleagues Vidya (Sharone Sayegh) and Giri (Ray Singh) continue to call in San Jose Rep’s West Coast premiere of Disconnect.