Audiences who associate South Asia with Bollywood spectacle or the epic storytelling of the Mahabharata will get a corrective in these three short plays. But Rasaka’s laudable goal of presenting the seldom-shown South Asian immigrant experience is undercut by slight scenarios and lackluster staging. In Chandwaney’s ten-minute, rather mystifying “Instant Recall,” an Englishman (Mahler) meets with an Indian woman (Chandwaney) who suffers from odd memory lapses. The similarly brief and more formulaic “Night Shift,” by Primlani, details a somewhat creepy encounter between a motel clerk (Jordan Kohl) and a patron (Mahler), defused by the motel owner’s daughter (Amrita Dhaliwal).
Sharma’s “Midnite’s Vultures,” a full-fledged one act, concerns a pair of Indian-Americans (Anwar and Bhatia) in St. Louis. He’s an unemployed investment banker, she’s a law clerk, and after meeting on Craigslist, they take peyote together in a Native American graveyard. Then the spoken-word poetry starts busting out. “Vultures” is surprisingly watchable: The loopy conversation about different kinds of Indians, family and cultural expectations and the burdensome legacy of The Simpsons’ Apu has a Richard Linklater charm. Sharma’s created a couple of fascinating characters—tech-savvy, marinated in U.S. pop culture and equally familiar with developing-world liberation movements and the codes of corporate conduct. If only he’d given them something to do. The play ends on the verge of really beginning, when the banker asks the clerk for her real name.