Saturday, March 31, 2018

Theater Review: Guards at the Taj

I saw Guards at the Taj last night at the Central Square Theater in Cambridge. An ambitious two-person play by Rajiv Joseph set around the time of the completion of the Taj Mahal, two guards stand watch musing about the beautiful new palace just completed, a kind of Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern of India. They are unlikely as guards, too foolish, too much like young boys than stern soldiers -- which may mean that they are exactly like guards. Their careless talk makes them worry that, if overheard, they will be charged with blasphemy. Actually, their fate is much worse. The emperor has decreed that all the workmen who built the Taj will have their hands cut off to prevent anyone from every building anything so beautiful again. It falls to our two baffoonish pair to carry out this awful task.

An absolutely ghoulish scene follows, in which our two protagonists move baskets filled with hands and pouring blood. It's almost absurd in its horror, which is a valid question to pose. We enter otherworldly dreams, or should we call them nightmares, of men trapped in hell because they are small, powerless, not smart enough to know otherwise. The play delivers, but just barely. While the actors shout their lines from the stage, those same lines would have had much greater power if delivered in a softer voice. The loudness seemed collegiate, if not sophomoric. And their fundamental dilemma isn't wholly spelled out, though their dystopian descent into inferno is well played.

So much for the play. I will write about other things at some other time, now that I'm blogging again.