“The issue with exposition is, why would you need a map whenever you’re attempting to get misplaced?” asks Deepali Gupta close to the beginning of “United States v. Gupta.”
Misplaced is actually how one feels at a number of factors of this meandering manufacturing in regards to the trial and conviction for insider buying and selling of Rajat Gupta — Deepali’s father and a former head of the worldwide consulting agency McKinsey & Firm. Over the course of its three hours, what’s billed as a “musical tragedy” makes an attempt to make use of Rajat’s trial as a dramatic trampoline for different subjects: Deepali’s involuntary dedication in a psychiatric ward, the legacy of her grandfather (a freedom fighter and journalist), and the biases of enterprise reporters.
Confusion is instantly sown when Deepali tells us, by means of introduction, “I’m writing a play, and I’m making an attraction. The attraction is a play. I’m interesting to your humanity. I’m interesting to you. I’m attempting to make your humanity appear interesting.” The final line throws us again on our heels: Why is it our humanity that must be upholstered into one thing interesting?
This query is rarely answered. And confusion reigns all through the efficiency. Although primarily based on an precise trial, characters’ identities are collapsed or in any other case destabilized. Arti Gollapudi performs all three of Deepali’s older sisters, for instance, differing primarily by levels of uptightness. To additional complicate issues, Deepali addresses every of them as “Didi,” an honorific of endearment, in order that it’s unimaginable to inform precisely which sister she’s seated subsequent to whereas they watch their father’s trial.
Because the musical lurches from subject to subject — the present, directed by Caitlin Sullivan, is seasick with non sequiturs — it frequently defers judgment about her father. It ends on the largest unresolved query of all: whether or not Rajat Gupta was “ man.” The jury has by then made its choice, however Deepali, a songwriter and efficiency artist, primes us to rethink. When she sings, a couple of map of India, “how malleable are our borders, how permeable are our boundaries,” she may by hymning the boundary-free nature of not simply her personal existence, however her father’s, encouraging us to see him as a fallible being.
Style-wise, the play can also be at struggle with itself. Regardless of its billing as a musical tragedy, it struggles to grow to be both of these issues. Not one of the tunes caught out as significantly memorable, and plenty of may very well be safely excised, together with a nonsensical duet about SweeTarts sung by Deepali and one in every of her sisters.
The inclination of “Gupta” towards digression merely distracts from the principle level, which turns into more and more muddled because the work inches alongside. By the top, the present is caught someplace between takedown and tribute, between reflecting on what a daughter stands to inherit from her father’s convictions, in each senses of the phrase, and ceding area to the patriarch to inform his personal story. “Gupta” would have benefited, no query, from a map, however much more from a compass.
United States v. Gupta
By means of Nov. 28 at Jack, Brooklyn; jackny.org. Operating time: 3 hours.
This overview is supported by Important Minded, an initiative to spend money on the work of cultural critics from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.