East West Players, the nation’s longest-running professional theater of color and the largest producing organization of Asian American artistic work, presents “Free Outgoing,” written by Anupama Chandrasekhar and directed by Snehal Desai in his directorial debut as EWP artistic director, from Feb. 9 to March 12 at the David Henry Hwang Theater, Union Center of the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St. in Little Tokyo.
In this internationally acclaimed and timely play about a middle-class home in conservative Chennai, 15-year-old Deepa is filmed by her boyfriend engaging in a sexual act. The indiscreet cell phone video goes viral, becoming a national scandal that exposes gender double standards and conflicting views of female sexuality. Deepa’s single mother Malini — a modern-day Mother Courage — struggles to protect her children while caught between India’s embrace of new technology and adherence to old-world values.
“In the last decade, technology has transformed the way we navigate the world, yet the lens with which we see and judge our girls and women has hardly changed,” says Chandrasekhar. “I wrote ‘Free Outgoing’ in anger to explore hypocrisy regarding female sexuality and to understand my world better. I’m thrilled and honored that ‘Free Outgoing’ is being staged by East West Players as part of their season showcasing women of color. EWP is indispensable for getting marginalized voices heard and for putting female practitioners center stage.”
“When I first read the script, it left me breathless,” says Desai. “I was drawn to the timeliness and intensity of ‘Free Outgoing,’ which centers on the epic struggle of a woman caught between traditional customs and youthful exploration. Anupama is a brilliant journalist and political playwright, whose writing incites dialogue about relevant social issues and gender inequality. It’s the most provocative play of our season.”
Making their EWP debuts are Anna Khaja (“Quantico,” “True Blood,” “Stitchers,” “Silicon Valley”) as Malini, Anil Kumar (Manhattan Theater Club’s “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife”; “NCIS,” “Six Feet Under,” “24,” “Law & Order: SVU”) as Ramesh, and Kavi Ladnier (The Public Theatre’s “ANON(YMOUS)”; “Heroes,” “General Hospital”) as Nirmala/Kokila/Usha. Kapil Talwalkar (EWP’s “Animals Out of Paper”) will play Sharan.
The creative team includes Stephanie Kerley Schwartz (scenic designer), Katelan Braymer (lighting design), Sharath Patel (sound designer), Rachel Myers (costume designer), Glenn Michael Baker (assistant scenic designer/prop master), and Brandon Hong Cheng (stage manager).
Previews are Feb. 9 through 12, with 8 p.m. shows from Thursday to Saturday and 2 p.m. matinee shows on Saturday and Sunday. All preview seats are $25. Opening night is Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 8 p.m. with pre-show cocktail reception and post-show reception with the cast and creative team. “Pay-What-You-Can” performance is on Thursday, Feb. 16, at 8 p.m. Post-show discussion will be held after the Sunday, Feb. 26 performance. Regular shows are Thursday, Friday and Saturday a 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets may be purchased at www.eastwestplayers.org or by calling (213) 625-7000, making sure to mention any wheelchair/accessible seating needs. Student, senior, and group discounts are available. General admission ranges from $35 to $50. Dates, details, and ticket prices are subject to change.
“Free Outgoing” is part of “Radiant,” EWP’s 51st anniversary season, which focuses stories by and about women.