I went into this play with little expectations as much of the cast and crew involved in Two Muskatears were performing debut roles in crucial areas. For instance this is Umar Sultan’s initial effort as a play director, Shafqat ‘Shafqi’ Khan’s premier as a playwright and Sana Amin’s introductory leap onto commercial stage as a choreographer.
That being said, the project has a solid foundation of artists who can boast of a long affiliation with the performing arts.
As the curtain lifts you are welcomed by a blithely genuine set design. The living room where the entire play unravels is spacious, realistic, with a higher set landing, tasteful purple walls and five creative stage exits (two of them actually have stairs and you can see the actors disappearing down to some Narnia).
The play began twenty minutes late which is something that I doubt later audiences will have to endure. The audience is greeted by Zoobi, the maid/gold-digger (played by Sidra Sadiq) dressed intentionally in gaudy pinkish red garb, a rainbow duppata and golden piranda. In keeping with most of the characters involved in the project, she too has delusions about her stature. Utilising her appearance and exploiting their age she juggles the affections of both the head of the household Haseen Sahib and his equally lecherous friend Shamim tactfully to her advantage.
Haseen Sahib is played by the now renowned Saqib Sameer who was a part of Lovengers and Avanti. As expected he acts brilliantly and some moments are so fluid in their execution that the audience audibly gasped with pleasant surprise. There is something oddly endearing about a harmless old man who is hard of hearing but knows well enough when he’s being hustled by the maid. Haseen Sahib lets this happen anyway for cheap thrills are all he can afford. Fizza Zehra plays his obnoxious, super loud, heavily gesticulating wife who speaks bad English and has ridiculous delusions of grandeur. However her acting is not abrasive, it’s exactly at the level of annoying that her character is meant to be. Unwittingly interrupting her husbands’ efforts to have a successful extra martial affair, she is vain and insists that her true place is in ‘Inglaaand’.
The couple resides with their nephews Hamid and Sajid (Younas Khan and Arshad Malik respectively). The brothers reveal their characters immediately upon entrance; Hamid is obsessed with Bollywood legend Shahrukh Khan and Sajid is the well meaning, not too bright loveable black sheep of the family.
Enter the femme fatale Hooria (Sundas Tariq) who upon arrival has the brothers wrapped around her little finger. As she hails from London, Rosh/Roshanara sees her as a one way ticket to the Promised Land instead of a person. She demonstrates this by referring to her as ‘baby’ within five minutes and shaking her vigorously to emphasise a point or casually throwing her on the sofa instead of suggesting that she sit.
The play has several moments of authentic hilarity and humble wit. The best thing about the humour was that it was accessible without being cheap and sleazy which many performances rely on nowadays. The dances were casual but impressive and energetic all at once. The lighting acutely reflected the different tones of the play although there was a lot of strobe involved in one of the dance sequences.
Written for Karachi and dedicated to Moin Akhtar, the play will be staged until the October 28. It is evidence of the growing creativity and elevation of the cities cultural community as there are many new acts to look out for and it’s comforting to know that they are being held up to the lime-light on the shoulders of giants.