Mother in Another Language – by Taniya Hossain

Synopsis: When Tarak, a Bengali ex-pat, and Karen, an American, decide to get married, they know they’re in for some cultural difficulties. But when Tarak buys them a brownstone and asks permission to move his mother into the basement apartment, Karen knows sheâ s getting more than she bargained for. Hoping that Tarak’s mother is nothing like her own mother, Blanch, a brash, independent woman on her fourth marriage.  Karen agrees but nothing prepares her for the arrival of Meena, Tarak’s mother. Instead of taking over the brownstone, Meena manages to make her apartment the center of the house. Things go from bad to worse when Karen’s mother, Blanch, is suddenly broke and homeless. Blanch moves in with Meena turning them into the odd couple from hell. Blanch’s modern woman ways conflict with Meena’s traditional Bengali household. But the mothers stay together finding a new respect for each other. Now they have to teach their children the lesson of compromise before the engagement is called off.

Setting: The basement apartment of a brownstone in New York City.
Time Period: The present

Cast Size: 4 W/ 2 M
Tarak Kanwar, early 30’s, M.  A Bengali-expat. His English is very good but he retains his native accent, a result of British/American schooling.

Karen Williams, early 30’s, F.         Tarak’s fiance.

Blanch Stevens, 50’s, F.       Karenâ s mother.

Meena Kanwar, 50’s, F.         Tarakâ s mother.  She speaks English but isnâ t comfortable using it. Her accent is slightly heavier than Tarak’s

Nalini Chatterjee, early 30’s, F.
Karen’s friend, an American born Indian. She has only an American accent.

Pietro Sampriano, 60’s, M.     An Italian-expat, a widower. He has a heavy Italian accent.

Design Needs: The basement apartment of a brownstone in New York City. Stairs leading to the rest of the building are visible when the apartment door is open. The space has a pretty living room/kitchen area with doors leading to two bedrooms and a bathroom. Two windows give a limited view of the sidewalk.

This Play Is: unpublished

Production History: Mother was first read as part of SALAAM Theatre’s AWAAZ New Voices/ New Plays Festival and went on to be featured as part of the South Asian Diaspora in the Lark’s Playwright’s Week, presented in partnership with the Indo-American Arts Council in New York. The play has been presented by Disha Theatre Reading Series at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles. The play was produced by Pratidhwani and ReAct Theatre in Seattle.

Awards: Finalist for the O’Neill Playwrights Conference 2006.

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