Marriage is monotonous. That’s what Dario Fo and Franca Rame, Italy’s infamous thespian power-couple seemed to think, anyway, when they wrote The Open Couple in 1983. Theirs was a time of rebellion, of breaking free of the shackles of Fascism and tyranny, when the World Wars ripped open the societal fabric and the strict, somewhat elitist moral code that had governed European life. It was the start of a feminist movement, of sexual and social emancipation – the celebrated writer-philosopher couple Jean Paul Sartre and his partner, Simone de Beauvoir, had a much-publicised open relationship.
The play, Coppia aperta, quasi spalancata in the original Italian, was restricted to audiences over 18 by Censor boards when Rame included, as a prologue, her own monologue, The Rape, which had been inspired by her own life. It's less grim than it sounds. The Open Couple, produced Compagnia Fo-Rame, debuted in 1983, is, in Fo's inimitable style, a grand farce. Is throwing a marriage open to other partners as much fun as we would like to believe? Is sexual emancipation the answer to a freedom? You have to watch to find out...
The Open Couple is a riotous, irreverent farce on the sexual politics of marriage. A man persuades his suicidal wife that an open marriage is "politically correct" and proceeds to begin a number of dalliances with younger women, much to his wife's horror. The tables turn, though, quite suddenly, when the wife confesses to a new lover, a Nobel-prize nominated professor and even worse, singer-songwriter, showing her husband a side to 'open relationships' he had simply failed to anticipate.
Directed by celebrated theatre personality Ashish Sen, The Open Couple marks the 150th anniversary of the C Krishnaiah Chetty Foundation, part of the CKC group of Jewellers, starring Rubi Chakravarti and Rakesh Batra. "We do not forget that a city like Bengaluru is filled with a varied, rich and modern set of citizens," says Vinod Hayagriv, MD and Director, CKD Group of Jewellers. "Through generations of involvement with the people of the city, we hear, and we respect that citizens love innovation and theatre with a difference."
Dario Fo and Franca Rame were known for their scathing wit and their ability to use farce as a theatrical device, explains Ashish Sen. "The Open Couple is one of the few plays written by the couple as a unit, with both Fo and Rame lending to the layered texture and incisive take on gender issues," says director, Ashish Sen. Gender equity and women's issues are some of the key themes of The Open Couple. "Roles are hilariously reversed when a husband and wife take each other to task about the virtues and vices of being an open couple," says Rubi Chakravarti. "The result is a laugh-a-minute, rollicking farce that will have you rolling about in the aisles but that will also leave you with plenty of food for thought," Sen adds.
Rubi Chakravarti, the multi-faceted actor, columnist, corporate trainer and one of Bengaluru's first standup comics, has a long history of working with Sen, too - the rapport they share offstage only adds to the chemistry they create on it. "The play is brutally funny and I love the dynamics between the male and female characters," she says. "I have always enjoyed stepping into Antonia's (the protagonist) shoes, because her character evolves so beautifully through the course of the play."
Comedy is tough and adult comedy even tougher, with more nuanced dialogue and subtle humour that need to be conveyed to the audience without being over the top. Timing is key, agrees, Rakesh Batra, who also has a leading role. "The audience will have as much fun watching the play as we intend to have performing it!"
What: The Open Couple
When: June 7, 6.30 pm
Where: Chowdiah Memorial Hall Note: Refreshments served at 6:00 pm, the show starts at 6.30 pm. Donor passes available from Rs 250 to Rs 1,250. Parental Guidance recommended; admission to patrons 18 years and above.