Fish Eyes/Boys with Cars is a double header of one woman shows about growing up as a traditional Indian dancer in small-town British Columbia and navigating the tough reality of being different as a teenager.
Should you see it?
Fish Eyes is about a feisty girl wanting nothing more than to be accepted and fall in love with the popular boy during her high school graduation year. The color of her skin and, later on, her commitment to an Indian dance recital get in the way of both these goals. Will she learn that some things are more important than being “cool” or will all her prom dreams come true?
Here, Anita Majumdar does an amazing job recreating the high school experience and juxtaposes this nicely with scenes at a dance studio. This show was pure fun and utterly relatable for anyone who’s had to reconcile who they are with who they think they want to be.
Boys with Cars is a much darker show that leaves behind issues of self-acceptance and instead tackles sexual assault, bullying, and unadulterated hatred. Here our heroine builds a happy life and has it all torn away by a manipulative boy at school. She throws away her future in order to revel in her desperation and anger. How she comes to terms with her desire for revenge is both beautiful and rewarding.
Fish Eyes/Boys with Cars is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced at the theater because of how seamlessly it blends two disparate art forms. What starts out as an already entertaining and inspired show turns into something absolutely magical and riveting thanks to the incorporation of Indian dance. The dance to “Survivor” was particularly mesmerizing and, in my opinion, worth the price of admission alone.
I also enjoyed how obvious it was that these dances are a form of storytelling in their own right. I didn’t know that about traditional Indian dance and was pleased to learn more about that culture throughout Fish Eyes, while Boys with Cars illustrated the dangers of cultural appropriation. In Boys with Cars, I particularly enjoyed the character of Lucky who shows us a different type of Indian who contrasts nicely with the other characters deftly portrayed by Majumdar.
In both stories, the main character has a strong female role model and Majumdar develops these relationships very well. The inter-generational conflict, and the unexpected parallels between the experiences of young and old, adds a really interesting and charming depth to the show. I particularly liked how sassy and independent the “auntie” characters were, and how they doled out tough love without ever losing their sympathetic nature.
Overall, these shows really worked for me. Majumdar is a skilled performer with a whole lot of energy that makes watching her a real treat. The costumes are gorgeous; the lighting and sets complement the action without drawing attention away from it; the stories are honest, engaging, and wonderful; and of course, the dancing, music, and Bollywood references were exciting and unique.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. Did you cheer when Naz threw away the Keg mint, or did you prefer it when she nursed her broken heart? Did Meena make the right choice or would you have navigated the high school halls differently? Join the discussion in the comments below!