The Studio Theater on 14th Street is putting on Tom Stoppard's play Indian Ink, listed as "the East coast premier", and I went to it this afternoon. I've always liked Stoppard's plays because of the way he writes: puns, word games, mental gymnastics. The things Stoppard wrote in the past like Jumpers and Travesties [Carol: Dotsy saw that one with me at the Eisenhower] always got reviews from the critics saying that he didn't have enough heart and didn't develop his characters fully. In this play the critics say he did do characterization the right way.........or at least the way the critics wanted him to.

The play is about how people are remembered by their family and seen by the public in different ways and also about the relationship of India and England. There is very little plot: a youngish woman poet goes to India for her health and dies. As in a lot of his plays, it's set in more than one time and more than one place simultaneously. It's both in a native state in India in the late 1920s/early 1930s and also in India and England in the late 1980s.

The critics were right: there were more feelings and more emotion in this than in his earlier plays; there were still the lightning wit and intellectual-flash lines, but unfortunately [in my opinion] not as many as I would have liked. The acting was very good with the exception of one or two roles [out of about 20]; the scenery was almost non-existent. The changes in place and time - which occurred over and over - were done with props and lighting and were done well.

As usual with Stoppard, the play makes you think. There was an incident of an Indian man being arrested "for his beliefs" by the British. The British woman asked: oh, because he was a Hindu? The answer was no, because he was involved in a demonstration and threw a missile at the Rajah. The British woman responded: well then he wasn't arrested for his beliefs but for his actions. That's a point people always forget when they compare Western "oppression" to Nazi/Communist oppression.

Also, in another scene, an Indian character was pointing out how the "Indians" had 3,000 years of culture before the English arrived with their mere centuries of culture. Of course, you see through Stoppard that the fallacy is that there is no "India" today when you have scores of competing languages and cultures which have to use English as a national language and there also was no "India" for 5,000 years; there was merely a culture that most of 20th century "India" now has and which can be traced back 3000 years. the comparison should have been made not with Britain but with "The West" or "Europe"; then the "British" culture goes back to the Romans and the Greeks and just as far as the "Indian" culture.

After the show I went across the street to Labellela's [spelling??] Ethiopian restaurant. They didn't have a smoking section, instead they had a non-smoking section: one table near the men's room. The food was also not very well done and I realized after I had sat down and gotten settled that it was basically a bar and grill for Ethiopian cab drivers. I'll go back to my regular Ethiopian restaurants from now on.

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