Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Sep 16 – Oct 1, 2022
Playwright: Saman Shad
Director: Kenneth Moraleda
Cast: Kevin Batliwala, Caroline L. George, Atharv Kolhatkar, Lex Marinos, Ashi Singh
Images by Phil Erbacher
Somewhere in Australia, Nasir is opening a marriage agency, because he has successfully matched dozens of Indian and Pakistani couples, and thinks it is time he turns professional. A hopeless romantic, Nasir is also buoyed by the success of his own marriage with Tasnim, making him feel an expert in the field. Saman Shad’s The Marriage Agency is a delightful comedy about love, for the young-at-heart. Nasir and Tasnim may be parents to a quick-witted rapidly growing teenager, but their relationship is still very much a focus.
Shad’s play takes a gentle, if slightly predictable, look at marriage during its maturing years. Characters in The Marriage Agency are refreshingly idiosyncratic, with consistently humorous dialogue that has us captivated. Directed by Kenneth Moraleda, the show feels energised, bearing an effervescence that proves uplifting from start to end.
Stage design by Rita Naidu cleverly incorporates a traditionally styled wedding walkway, that adds dimensionality to our sense of time and space. Lights by Saint Clair are thoroughly and ambitiously considered, to provide visual richness, to a simple story. Samantha Cheng’s spirited music gives the production a rhythmic foundation, on which performers and audience can connect, in emotional and atmospheric terms.
Actor Atharv Kolhatkar is wonderfully endearing as the somewhat naïve Nasir, able to make convincing a personality who is evidently quixotic by nature. Caroline L. George offers excellent balance as Tasnim, the much more rational spouse, effective at anchoring the story in a place of realism, that represents a familiar point of access for viewers. Lex Marinos’ understated approach as Bill, brings not only nuance but also elegance. Ashi Singh is a compelling presence, as daughter Salima. Kevin Batliwala is very charismatic, and very funny, in a number of disparate roles, leaving a remarkable impression with his natural flair for comedic timing.
Marriage is not for everyone, but for some, it can be all-consuming. Watching people like Nasir, who invest so much into romance, can be bewildering, but it is no doubt fascinating to see how fulfilling it appears to be. It is a reminder that to be human, involves a universal wrestling with a feeling of lack, that somehow we are created with an emptiness that requires something external, to provide a sensation of wholeness or completion. There is some truth to the idea, that we are born alone, and we die alone, but the fact remains, that for life to be meaningful, one needs to find ways to connect. The universe is embracing of us in infinite ways, and it is how we respond to those possibilities (and what we decide to call love) that matters.