The world premiere of Public Obscenities by 2023 Mark O'Donnell Prize winner Shayok Misha Chowdhury has been extended for a final time to April 16. Co-commissioned and co-produced with NAATCO, the bilingual Bangla and English play plays Soho Rep where it began February 15. It was previously extended to April 9.
Public Obscenities follows a queer studies Ph.D. student named Choton who is visiting his aunt and uncle in Kolkata while on a research trip for an academic project—he’s studying the slang of Kolkata’s local queer community. He’s brought with him Raheem, his Black American cinematographer boyfriend who has only learned a word “here” and “there” in Bangla. While conducting research, they are presented with small revelations about Choton’s family—like his uncle, who feels inadequate and whose dreams are filled with yearning. And Choton's grandfather, whose legacy of propriety and sternness is challenged by the discovery of an undeveloped roll of film. The play explores the idea of what Chowdhury calls “quiet disorientation.”
Find out more about what the playwright used from his own life as "autobiographical architecture" for the work as he told Playbill here.
Starring are Abrar Haque as Choton, Jakeem Dante Powell as Raheem, Tashnuva Anan as Shou, Debashis Roy Chowdhury as Pishe, Golam Sarwar Harun as Jitesh, Gargi Mukherjee as Pishimoni, and NaFis as Sebanti. Six of the cast members are Bengali actors from across the U.S. found via a nationwide casting search by Stephanie Yankwitt and Kim Montelibano Heil. All are making their Off-Broadway debuts.
The creative team features scenic designer dots, costume designer Enver Chakartash, lighting designer Barbara Samuels, sound designer Tei Blow, projection and video designer Johnny Moreno, dramaturg Sarah Lunnie, cultural dramaturg Sukanya Chakrabarti, props designer Patricia Marjorie, and stage manager Alyssa K. Howard.
Partially inspired by a dream his uncle related to him, Chowdhury shared in an earlier statement, “In some ways, the play is me wrestling with the fact that my uncle handed me his dream and told me to make a movie out of it. But I don't make movies—so instead of making a movie, I made a play about who gets to be an artist and what to do with all these unexpected things we inherit. My grandfather’s old Rolleicord camera was another major inspiration for the piece, and it may even show up on stage. I like to think that through the camera, my grandfather is also making his Off-Broadway debut.”
Public Obscenities is the first play co-commissioned by Soho Rep and The National Asian American Theatre Company through the NAATCO National Partnership Project.
For more information, visit SohoRep.org.