Huck & Holden
By Rajiv Joseph. Dir. Giovanna Sardelli. With Nick Choksi, Cherise Boothe, LeRoy McClain. Cherry Lane Theatre.
Thu Feb 2 2006
Photo: Rebecca Bernstein
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5
The title of Rajiv Joseph’s comedy refers to Messrs. Finn and Caulfield, who serve as symbols of the American Dream to Navin (Choksi), a young Indian man struggling through his first semester as an engineering major in the U.S. Though the immigrant’s dilemma of assimilation is as seminal a theme in American literature as that of the fictional rebels and outcasts Navin grows to admire, this broad, reductive work is not the most apt exploration of the theme.
Navin’s introduction to the American way of life is explored almost solely through sex, particularly as embodied in the person of Michelle (Boothe), an African-American library worker who befriends Navin while undergoing a breakup with her tough-guy boyfriend Torry (McClain). There is obvious comic potential in this particular culture clash, but the action coasts entirely on the undignified level of racial burlesque, replete with a contrived scenario in which Torry, after discovering Navin with a porn mag called Brown Honey, proceeds to give the nave Indian a tutorial in how to wax a girl’s ass.
In a magical-realist touch, Navin and Michelle have cross-cultural imaginary friends. Singh (Arjun Gupta) is a former Sikh classmate of Navin’s who the latter reimagines as an Indian Holden Caulfield, while Michelle receives visitations from the Hindu goddess Kali (Nilaja Sun), incarnated here as a trash-talkin’ mama whose caricature, if borderline offensive, at least breathes some life onto the stage. Still, if you’re not fond of stereotypes, do yourself a favor and read some Twain and Salinger instead.—Jeff Lewonczyk