Initial Review: Howzat

Initial Review: Howzat

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Howzat is a spectacle of undelivered potential. This play with intelligently written moments, an outstanding cast, and highly relevant material,  falls flat.

I say potential though because I suspect it will improve vastly over the next shows.  Many of the issues I saw (particularly: dragging pace, missed cues, dead lighting spots, low energy) will likely be addressed. The performances and characters are there, the material is ripe (though with juxtaposingly clichéd moments and blatant stereotypes), and the setting is right.

Other issues, particularly in direction and script, will remain, but should likely be less noticeable with punchier moments and corrected pacing.

Verdict

Go if you enjoy a simple, lighthearted comedy.

There are many types of audiences, and the less critical audience will definitely enjoy this one. It has many enjoyable moments and local references that make it fun even in its weaker, eye-rolling moments. The Sub-Continental crowd will find much to enjoy as well with many cultural and political references that make the whole play a constant in-joke (but not outside of the comprehension of non-Desi crowds.)

The regular theater going audience may enjoy this one less though. You have to be ready to just sit back and enjoy, because viewing this through a critical lens won’t be nearly as enjoyable.

Our full review and final verdict will be out after the play finishes. Lamya will be there tonight and I look forward to a discussing (arguing?) with her about this one in an extended review.

About author
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Phil Apaza

On and around the stage since age 7, Phil has been on nearly every side of it, both professional and amateur. He has been involved in over 100 productions, from major corporate and government events to playing an on-stage prop in a walk-on role.

Comments
  • Hiba#1

    December 18, 2016

    I Loved Howzat! Simple but with a deep message!

    Reply
  • Zohaib Tanwiri#2

    December 18, 2016

    Well compiled, directed and written. Overall a great experience. An original script, grabbing attention of audience throuought. Touched sesnsitive issues in a manner carefully handled and in good humour where required. The message was well communicated. Acting of all was superb.

    Reply
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    Phil Apaza#3

    December 18, 2016

    I’m encouraged by the number of people who saw subsequent shows on day 2 and 3 who thoroughly enjoyed it. It seems that it was vastly improved in those shows over the first day, which I had hoped. As mentioned, with the pacing and the tightness of delivery both up, a lot of issues wouldn’t seem as apparent. Theatre is fickle; if one element is bothersome, the other weaknesses become more apparent. With everything tight, scripting issues won’t be as obvious, which I believe happened here (and that is a good thing!) The team’s extended review and analysis will be out within the next 24 hours, so stay tuned for that and keep commenting!

    Reply
    • Chandni#4

      December 18, 2016

      Your initial review made me go watch the play even more! I watched the matinee show yesterday and there wasn’t a single boring moment. In fact, the local references were really apt and the pacing was nice and tight. So, definitely didn’t “fall flat.” The cast was great and I loved the set. I am not sure how the first night was, but yesterday was highly enjoyable and if there were more shows, I’d recommend others to go watch it. 🙂

      P.S. I think we need to credit such plays more because they are locally written and we don’t see a lot of locally written full length stuff.

      Reply
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        Phil Apaza#5

        December 18, 2016

        That’s good! Honestly, I saw it’s potential. I actually would go to see it again because I saw what it could be. I think some of my feelings about the script and direction would remain, but would easily be overshadowed by the acting and delivery. But those issues were very pronounced because

        On your P.S…. it’s something I want to talk about more. I am thrilled when someone chooses to pick up a pen and put themselves out there, even more so when it’s done locally. It’s hellishly difficult, and I feel terrible when reviewing something written locally. But, I also think that as reviewers and critics, we have a duty to not be biased or let that influence us into giving it a pass. As audience, I think we have a duty to go to support and encourage the writer, but that doesn’t mean we need to like the work or that it is to our taste. I have a lot of respect for Alex and Asad, so, it is difficult to make comments about their script. I want to see more from them, so my comments are meant to be personal.

        Reply
        • Chandni#6

          December 18, 2016

          I am not sure it’s that easy, Phil. The moment you start to review, especially someone like you who is a visible face in the circle, you are entrusted with a certain level of responsibility. Yes, your views are personal, but they have a far reaching effect. I mean, why put them out there if they are so personal, right?

          At the same time, you’re right about not giving performances like this one a pass because of a personal bias or just because it is locally written. All I am saying is, perhaps your views have a far reaching effect that possibly needs to be factored in while reviewing plays, specially like this one.

          Reply
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            Phil Apaza#7

            December 19, 2016

            That last sentence was actually meant to say “are NOT meant to be personal.” We need to change the comment system to allow for edits…. Sorry.

            Your point is cogently written and it is quite astute. When starting this, the question of balance between personal backgrounds, personal biases and the responsibility a reviewer has to the arts and the audience, that was of tantamount importance to me. Still is. We are refining as we go along. I try to make my assessments an analysis of the piece, but I do need to fall on my experience and training in theatrical arts to support that. And, as much as I try to shed it, I have my own cultural perspective (which leads to cultural biases) that is hard to get rid of, but I try to be cognizant of it. In fact, I try to very specifically note it.

            And one more major typo in that article, the unfinished sentence in the first paragraph: “But those issues were very pronounced because … comedy can lose an audience so easily if it isn’t tight. And when not distracted by a tight comedy, it exposes its greater flaws.”

  • Gautam#8

    December 18, 2016

    Not sure if I fully agree with you Phil. I went in quite skeptically, given it was a locally written script and a full length one at that. I was pleasantly surprised. The writing was very good. The jokes landed well. The acting was pretty good for opening night. I left the theatre smiling and encouraged friends and family to come and watch as well. Yes I will agree with you that it could have been sharper on opening night and the lighting could be better managed in certain scenes (both issues I believe were addressed by the 2nd show). However I do not think it “falls flat”. Reviews in general have been quite impressive. Not sure we saw the same play. Would love to hear Lamya’s take on this too 🙂

    Reply
  • Gautam#9

    December 18, 2016

    Just saw your new note 😉

    Reply
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      Phil Apaza#10

      December 18, 2016

      Not that I’m deflecting away from your comment, but I’m wondering if there is a review we agree on… What did you think of the new Star Wars movie? 😛

      Reply

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