New York-based playwright Jeff Baron's play Visiting Mr Green travels to Bengaluru
This comedy explores different perspectives of religion, sexuality and family
The premise of the play Visiting Mr Green is simple. An 86-year-old, recently widowed man is almost run over by a car driven by a young man. As a consequence, the latter is ordered by the court to visit the former every week to ensure he is doing well. But, what inspired the New Yorkbased playwright and director Jeff Baron to write this play isn’t that simple.
It’s been 22 years since Jeff staged Visiting Mr Green in New York for the first time. After that, the play travelled to 49 countries and was staged over 500 times in 24 different languages. Last week, it was staged in India (the 50th country), in Mumbai and this weekend, it comes to Bengaluru.
Even after two decades of producing the play, the memories of what inspired him to write it remain fresh in Jeff ’s mind. He recollects, “A friend of mine told me about his volunteering experience of visiting an old man, and he thought it would make a good movie. I was writing movies at the time but I didn’t think it was interesting enough for a film script. However, what unfolded in my life changed my perspective. My grandmother was in her 90s and her health had started to deteriorate. I was the only relative she saw at that point. Many memories were made during my visits to her, some were funny and a few others were sad. I tried sharing these with people, but nobody could really understand what I went through. Only after she died, I came up with the premise of Visiting Mr Green,” reveals Jeff.
As the story evolved, Jeff also thought of introducing conflict in the play. He wanted the character of the young man to be forced to visit the old man. Explaining the reason behind this proposition, the playwright says, “I think the ’90s were kind of important in terms of writing this story. I had come out as gay. But I had never been able to talk about it with my grandmother. I think for most people, their grandparents are like their last frontier. So, I came up with the idea of a car accident and combined these with the kind of amazing experiences I had with my grandmother. This play was a way for me to imagine the conversations I might have had with her.”
Although the plot may seem quite intense, Visiting Mr Green is a funny, intergenerational play. It is a comic clash of cultures, even as it explores different perspectives about religion, sexuality and family. “When I wrote this play, it was very personal. I never imagined it would be staged anywhere outside the US. But then it was staged in Germany, Japan, Brazil, Greece and so many other places. The reactions have been the same from audiences everywhere. In Mumbai, people came up to me and said, ‘this reminds me so much of my family,’” he offers.
Jeff also reveals that he was approached many times by production houses in India for the rights of the play. But he wanted to stage it in its original form, and this is the first time that he is directing a production outside the US. The play features one of the most respected theatre artistes of the country, MK Raina, as the old man and up-and-coming actor Aakash Prabhakar as the young man. “It’s an entertaining play and it’s very relevant in India considering the cultural transformation that the country is witnessing,” he says in conclusion.
Rs 300. February 1, 3.30 and 7.30 pm. At Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar