Review: Bollywood Kitchen at the Geffen Playhouse

Sri Rao in the Geffen Stayhouse world premiere production of Bollywood Kitchen. Directed by Arpita Mukherjee. Photo by Kyle Rosenberg.

As part of its “Stayhouse” programming, the Geffen Playhouse is abiding with the new rules of social distancing by bringing us a new virtual and interactive streaming theater experience right into our homes. Author, Sri Rao cooks an Indian feast live from his home kitchen in New York City while narrating his life, including his parents’ poignant love story and immigrating to the US, and his own experiences growing up in America as a South Asian gay man.

Sri is not a professional cook, but smoothly re-creates the food he loves from his mother Anu Rao’s kitchen in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, where she adapted Indian dishes to her life in the U.S. suburbs. Home-cooked food and Bollywood movie nights on the couch were clearly a refuge for them as a family so it’s no surprise that he adds snippets of vibrant Bollywood videos into the mix.

Sri Rao in the Geffen Stayhouse world premiere production of Bollywood Kitchen. Directed by Arpita Mukherjee. Photo by Kyle Rosenberg.

Multiple ticketing options allow audiences to choose their own level of participation, including a livestream viewing-only. For those who prefer an interactive experience, a special “Bollywood Box” containing an aromatic spice kit, several essential ingredients, recipe cards, and a shopping list will be delivered to your doorstep in advance of the performance. The star of the evening is undoubtedly the masala popcorn starter, sprinkled with Indian spices, lemon juice and melted butter. The main course is a delicious and easy to make chicken curry with a side of cucumber raita, but there’s also a vegan option of chana masala. A refreshing Mumbai Mule cocktail keeps the mood festive, and, finally there’s the inventive chocolate chai affogato for a rewarding dessert.

At the beginning of the show, Sri calls his parents pioneers. With this show, the Geffen Playhouse and the producing team of director Arpita Mukherjee, set designer Neil Patel, and lighting designer Amith Chandrashaker continue the pioneering spirit by keeping theatre vibrant during our challenging times.

— Victor Riobo / Ghalib Dhalla

Bollywood Kitchen at the Geffen Playhouse through March 6.