The Rishta adds to Montreal
theatre’s cultural diversity
Play addresses intercultural marriage by way of an entertaining comical farce
By Byron Toben
April 3, 2023
Congrats to the Silk Road Theatre for establishing the first North American Theatre specializing in Muslim themes. I saw their earlier attempt in 2018, renting the Espace Knox from the converted United Church building in NDG but circumstances and the advent of COVID-19 delayed further productions until now. Under the auspices of the Montreal Silk Road Institute, it looks ready to roll. And roll it did, with the show, The Rishta, which opened to a full audience on March 30.
The title translates to “The Suitor.” Here, Samah, a young Canadian lady of South Indian ancestry (Eman Ayaz), has met and fallen in love with a classmate of Moroccan origin but fears that her parents will not approve of a choice from another country, even though also a Muslim one (not so far fetched, as letters to the Bintel Brief advice column in the early 1900s Yiddish newspaper Der Forverts attest – can a girl of Rumanian ancestry marry a man of, say, Polish background, even though both are Yiddish speakers?) Her parents, father Jamal (Ivan Smith) and mother Arifa (Sehar Manji), support traditional values, even though becoming Canadianized in private with modern dancing and hockey games,
So Samah enlists Badra (Nora Guerch), a matchmaker, to aid her. Badra, in conjunction with Samah’s brother Kamran (Adolyn H. Dar), comes up with a scheme to submit other suitors who may prove so unacceptable that the classmate is endorsed after all (a scheme beyond that matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi of the 1963 musical hit Hello Dolly never tried.) The contradictory actions of Samah’s family provide fun twists as several other suitors, all played by Subhan Aref, are introduced, each with drawbacks.
Congrats to the Silk Road Theatre for establishing the first North American Theatre specializing in Muslim themes.
Justin Bieber fans may be pleased that his Tee shirts are included in the play, written by Uzma Jalaluddin and directed by Masha Bashmakova.
I was particularly pleased to see accomplished actor Ivan Smith back in action, having been impressed with his portrayal of characters in Danette MacKay’s since terminated Kiss My Cabaret cabarets at La Sala Rosa from the early 2000s.
Finally, all works out, even for the audience, which feasted on samosas and other South Indian delicacies at the post-show reception.
‘I was particularly pleased to see accomplished actor Ivan Smith back in action, having been impressed with his portrayal of characters in Danette MacKay’s since terminated Kiss My Cabaret…’
Hopefully, the Silk Road Theatre will draw audiences of all backgrounds, as the Dora Wasserman Yiddish theatre (established 1958), the Segal Centre (1967, re-born 2007), the Black Theatre Workshop (1968, offically 1971) and the Leonardo Da Vinci Centre (2002) have from their respective core audiences.
The Rishta continues at the Centaur Theatre until April 8.
Images: Casey Marie Ecker
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.