Molly Sweeney, a riveting play written by Brian Friel has recently been adapted by Rehaan Engineer. The play stars Vidushi Mehra as Molly, Samar Sarila as Mr Rice and Farhad Colabavala as Frank Sweeney.
The 1994 two-act play received its American premiere in 1996 in an off-Broadway production. The play portrays three distinctive stories and weaves a tale of beautiful ambiguity, as it seeks to leave the viewer wondering about the other side of life. The play tells the story of a woman named Molly who has been blind since a very young age. Demonstrating the influence of light and sound on the audience’s perception of what unfolds on stage, the play is a union of three monologues that offer an organic, collaborative, and narrative
In the words of Denis Diderot, a French art critic, “learning to see is not like learning a new language—it’s like learning language for the first time”. For Molly, Frank and Dr Rice that learning process has terrifying
The team had been working hard to bring the characters alive at the Oddbird Theatre for its Delhi audiences, after Rehaan Engineer had captivated the audience earlier in Mumbai. The Delhi leg of the screening lasts till 15 October, and the team shared their experiences and with Guardian 20.
When asked about why she chose to perform the lead in Molly Sweeney, Vidushi Mehra said, “It is an unusual piece, and the playwright has carefully woven the lines to take care of three different perspectives along with their own past history.” For Samar Sarila, too, the role appeared as a challenge. “It just had such a strong emotional appeal the moment I read the script. It is such a rollercoaster of emotions as this blind woman has her sight restored and experience itself is immersive,” he said. Farhad said he was glued to the play after the first reading: “Molly Sweeney has passion, drama, hope, despair and so I was instantly attracted to it. It sure is a compelling piece of theatre.” The hard work behind the show was clearly visible on stage. Vidushi said, “It’s one of the hardest plays to do, since we are narrating a story through a set of monologues, so acute attentiveness and focus was required in stabilising the mind to deliver the lines.”
Samar added, “We have to do justice to range of emotions and thoughts that come out over the course of the play, especially as it is a topic that has to be treated with sensitivity.”
For Farhad the challenge was to portray a passionate and impulsive husband. “The journey to restore Molly’s sight was also very challenging as I had to remain hopeful, despairing, impulsive and very loving—all at the same time.”
Talking about the challenges involved in bringing the story to life, the trio felt the overall struggle and depended on the wisdom of the director along with their own empathy and sensitivity to the subject. Furthermore, Vidushi and Samar believe that theatre acting in India is driven by passion, but with time, people are beginning to gauge the serious dedication behind theatre acting. Despite being performed at various levels, theatre acting has a long way ahead, the duo added.
With respect to the lessons he derived from Molly Sweeney, Samar said, “That we often need to put ourselves in other people’s shoes to truly understand the extent of their trials and tribulations.” For Vidushi, too, the experience brought in many lessons. “To first be human, finding empathy, courage, sensitivity to life in general. Find the truth in life through the theatre and empathise with it.”