Laughter therapy on stage

What happens when two kleptomaniacs meet at a psychiatrist’s clinic? Why they end up stealing stuff from each other of course! Or imagine the plight of the patient who consults the doctor seeking a cure to amnesia only to realize that the good old doc can’t remember a thing either. The conversation that follows between the two forgetful men, would make even six pack abs roll with laughter.

Developed and directed by Dhruv Mookerji of the Kolkata-based theatre group Theatrician, Comedy Kitchen is a combination of 14 short plays - some original works, others adaptations of works of famous British comedians such as Rowan Atkinson, John Cleese and Stephen Fry.

The two-hour production, which premiered in New Delhi in 2011 followed by Kolkata in 2012 and in Mumbai’s Comedy Store this January, will be staged at the newly refurbished Liberty Cinema today. However, what makes this performance different are two things: firstly, this is the first time Theatrician will stage all 14 skits as part of Comedy Kitchen. Secondly, this is also the first time they wIll perform in a public proscenium theatre in the city. “The newly done up Liberty cinema looks almost like London Western Theatre. I decided to stage 14 skits as it gives us the scope to reach out to a larger audience and also do plays that demand more stage space and physical activity from the actors,” says Mookerji.

The 30-year-old actor-director, who loves watching Cleese, Fry and Atkinson on TV, decided to pay an ode to them a couple of year ago. “Comedy is something that everyone can relate to. So I started off by staging five-six comedy skits as part of Comedy Kitchen, for private audiences at hotels and corporate events. Soon I began writing original scripts. Since I wanted to amalgamate more skits in a performance, we extended the number to 10.

However, over a period of time, we have developed a huge bank of skits and wanted to include everything for the February 3 event.”

Mookerji describes the skits, which are in Hindi, Hinglish and Hingali (Bengali and Hindi mixed), as an eclectic mix of downright mad, wacky and absurd spoofs as well as intelligent work. “I want to make people laugh by not poking fun at anyone or by making someone look silly. The reason I keep coming back to Comedy Kitchen is that it is designed to entertain people across the board.”

His cast of eight actors mostly sticks to the script but also improvises frequently on stage. The young director has stuck to the same cast from the beginning since it’s a close-knit group.

While he has faced the usual challenges of having to follow a tight budget and adjusting the rehearsals depending on the actors’ schedules, he admits with a straight face, “The biggest hurdle is to stop my cast from laughing while they practice. We end up losing almost 15 minutes each time.”

On a parting note, he demystifies the title of his production. “The perfect comedy needs to have the right ingredients of funny situations, mad people and comic timing. Since we are trying to achieve all this while rustling up diverse comedies, I named it Comedy Kitchen.”

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