- The play masterfully captures the essence of sibling rivalry, the desire to prove oneself as the most successful or caring daughter, and the poignant reflection on what it means to care for aging parents.
The stage was set, the kitchen was alive, and the emotions were real. “Nerve,” written by Minita Gandhi and directed by Kristen Brandt, offered an intimate and touching glimpse into the complexities of family relationships, love, and the bittersweet passage of time. This preproduction staging at TheaterWorks in in Palo Alto in Silicon Valley delivered a resonating portrayal of a family’s journey through life’s ups and downs, all centered around the heartwarming ritual of cooking cherished recipes.
At the core of “Nerve” is a family’s struggle to navigate the aftermath of the father’s passing, focusing on the interplay between a spirited mother and her three daughters. The kitchen becomes the canvas upon which their emotions are painted, as they cook and share treasured family recipes while engaging in conversations that are both heartwarming and brutally honest. The playwright masterfully captures the essence of sibling rivalry, the desire to prove oneself as the most successful or caring daughter, and the poignant reflection on what it means to care for aging parents.
The brilliance of “Nerve” lies in its ability to make the audience feel like silent participants in the family’s conversations. The authenticity of the interactions is palpable, and the emotions conveyed are universally relatable. The dialogues range from moments of bitter rivalry to shared laughter, from vulnerability to frustration, and from fond memories to discussions about death and its impact on family dynamics. This emotional rollercoaster is held together by the unifying theme of the mother’s love, beautifully manifested through her culinary creations and the act of sharing food.
Minita Gandhi’s inspiration for the play stems from her own personal experience with her mother’s illness which is also a backstory for the name of the play which will be revealed once you watch the performance. This deeply personal connection imbues the play with a profound sense of authenticity, allowing the audience to connect with the characters on a profoundly human level. As the characters confront the reality of their mother’s neurologic disorder, they grapple with the challenges of ensuring her well-being while coming to terms with their individual roles within the family.
The mother character stands out as the embodiment of the archetypal Indian mom, blending sweetness and saltiness in her conversations just like the perfect “bliss point” in her cooking. Her presence on stage is powerful, both in her strength and in her vulnerability. As the characters navigate their relationships and confront the inevitability of change, the mother’s love remains a steadfast anchor, reminding them of the enduring bond that holds them together.
The play’s second act is particularly captivating, drawing the audience deeper into the emotional vortex of the family dynamics. Laughter and tears intermingle as the characters’ interactions become more intense and revealing. The play’s ability to evoke such a wide range of emotions is a testament to the skill of the playwright and the cast.
The play’s success owes much to the exceptional performances of the cast, a small but impactful ensemble of five talented actors. Ranjita Chakravarty delivered a powerful and authentic portrayal of the mother, perfectly capturing her blend of strength and vulnerability. The daughters, played by Rachna Khatau, Miriam A. Laube, and Uma Paranjpe, skillfully brought their characters to life, adding depth and relatability to the family dynamics. Tiffany Yvonne Cox, as the best friend and confidante, seamlessly integrated into the family dynamic, contributing to the play’s emotional resonance.
As the play draws to a close, it fittingly culminates in a celebration of food, echoing the sentiment that shared meals and cherished recipes are more than just sustenance – they are vehicles for love, memories, and connection. The audience is left with a sense of introspection, pondering the fragility of life, the inevitability of change, and the importance of treasuring every moment with loved ones.
In its preproduction staging, “Nerve” offered an unforgettable experience that resonates with anyone who has experienced the complexities of family relationships. I also had the opportunity to express my appreciation to Ranjita, who was gracious enough to share that the second act was the cast’s FIRST run-through in this pre-production play. This revelation left me thoroughly astounded by the flawlessness of their performance.
Minita Gandhi’s talent for eliciting genuine emotions, combined with the acting of all the talented performers, brought to life a story that is at once heartrending and heartwarming and also made me proud of the burgeoning theatrical talent in the Bay Area. “Nerve” reminds us that life is a delicate tapestry woven with love, memories, and the recipes that bind us together.
Dr. Abha Soni is a young physician new to the Bay Area, who specializes in diagnosing skin diseases. Outside of work, she finds joy in sharing stories about her experiences and attending social and cultural events. She is also passionate about food, beauty/skincare, and travel blogging. Her artistic sensibilities find expression through visual art, music, and singing, which enrich her multifaceted life beyond medicine.