Yoni Ki Baat
Loosely based on The Vagina Monologues, Yoni Ki Baat is meant to be an airing out of the sexual secrecy choking South Asian women. Oral sex, lesbianism and the poor, aggrieved yoni (vagina) are a few of the topics (verboten in Desi culture) touched on in 14 vignettes. The premise is noble; the play, however, is a series of superficial, unenlightening sketches.
Birthed in 2003 by the Bay Area’s South Asian Sisters, Yoni has now been appropriated by Rasaka for its Midwest incarnation. The concept has been retained, but not all of the original writing, and therein lies the problem. Pieces written for the Chicago production tend toward the immature, in execution if not ambition. For all the mention of abuse, secrecy and forbidden sex, the dialogue comes straight from a high schooler’s diary. One rhyming monologue ends, “It was a hot night in Bombay, and I had so much left to say.”
It’s a shame the writing flails, because the cast is highly enjoyable, bringing an easy authenticity and accessibility to moments that could otherwise seem alien to other cultures. Director Jadhwani keeps the evening brisk and fun to watch, breaking up the action with bursts of Bollywood music and slinky staging. Moments of genuine outrage (forced prostitution, forced abortion), however, don’t land. There’s no through line beyond “I have a yoni and life is hard.” Well, we have a pair of arms and life is hard. As Rasaka hopes to make this a yearly event, may we request a Yoni with more depth next time?