Disconnect at Victory Gardens Theater | Theater review
Young workers at an Indian call center are seduced by the same fantasies as their maxed-out American marks in Anupama Chandrasekhar’s intriguing work.
Anupama Chandrasekhar’s intriguing, semi-satisfying 2010 play presents Chennai, India, as a town increasingly dwarfed by its own landfill, where taking the night shift at a call center and harassing American customers about their delinquent credit-card payments is among the most desirable jobs available to young workers. It’s a bleak landscape; no wonder collectors Roshan (Debargo Sanyal) and Vidya (Minita Gandhi)—“Ross” and “Vicky” on the phone with their marks—romanticize Illinois, the state they’re assigned to call all night, every night, imagining a better existence in Chicago. “Supercollector” Ross has so perfected his American accent he uses it and his Americanized name full-time.
The playwright, based in Chennai, brings a unique perspective on young Indians’ place in the modern world. In an area where upward mobility means leaving the country on a student visa, Ross, Vidya and coworker Giri (Behzad Dabu, who earns many of the play’s biggest laughs) are seduced by the same material indicators of Western success as their maxed-out marks, which takes its toll on their self-image. Ross eventually gets too fixated on his fantasies regarding a customer in Springfield, providing Disconnect’s main conflict.
First produced at London’s Royal Court, Disconnect receives its U.S. premiere in Ann Filmer’s attractive staging at Victory Gardens. It’d be nice to see Chandrasekhar, a former journalist still early in her playwriting career, get a stronger handle on structure. Her opening scene, for instance, misleads us into thinking the group’s aging supervisor is the protagonist rather than the supporting character he turns out to be. One also hopes Sanyal could better modulate his performance: His Ross is turned up to antisocial 11 pretty much throughout. Still, the continuing introduction of beguiling new voices to Victory Gardens is a trend to be encouraged.