When one walks into The Theater at the 14th Street Y for Riti Sachdeva’s “Parts of Parts & Stitches,” one is immediately taken aback by the unique set design. Gone are the Western norms of a stage, curtains, linear seats that stretch from the edges of the actor’s pitch with the emergency exits on the sides to the end seats adjacent to the doors. Instead there are the eight edges of a lengthened octagon.
Snaked across it are giant stitches that look as if each were arduously holding together the torn terra firma underneath. Holding things together is the delicate issue director Cat Parker explores in this interminable yet ardent interpretation of the Indo-Pakistani social conflicts of 1947, reverberations from which can still be felt in the subcontinent.
Set in a small village in the Mianwali district of the Punjab region, now part of Pakistan, Parts of Parts centers around the union of two Hindu families with the marriage of Yamuna, played by Mariam Habib (Egyptian Song), and Jiwan, played by Imran W. Sheikh (Timon of Athens). Embedded within the two families are Muslims. The first, Shazia, played by Bushra Laskar (Two Gentlemen of Verona) is a lifetime servant in Yamuna’s family who has no other family but, and then there is Maqbool (The Man’s Woman and Other Stories), a local sweets baker. As the wedding draws near the two families are unscathed by the heat off the clashes between Muslims and Hindus, until later when Jiwan is hacked to pieces by pieces, which moves Yamuna to a traumatic nirvana where she sews the pieces of her lover together with the threads of her wedding dress.
While the calamitous events that take place remind us the evils that are brought about when men are solely motivated by inexplicable inhumane prejudices against his fellow man, the women in Parts of Parts & Stitches go on to steal the show; the performances from both Habib and Laskar makes the two hours of one’s life spent inside the theater memorable.
In the first half of the show, Habib’s handle of the Indian jargon sprinkled into the dialogues, made her character a bit awkward to accept. It was hard to understand whether Yamuna was a native of her own land or did she happen to acquire, through an imaginative and unfortunate mix of twists, turns and bad luck, the heavy leaded tongue of an English speaker trying too hard to sound desi. Habib’s body is mechanically stiff, it’s as if the slow paced movements, dearth of drama, leaves her performance without much character and energy. But that changes in the second half where the both her character and the play explode into mind-blowing madness, where Habib’s energy is the brightest of the fire flowers that bursts above the polygon stage.
Meanwhile, Laskar delivers a complete performance, from start to finish that makes one wonder why she wasn’t casted as the lead. Laskar’s Shazia is without a flaw as she pulls the audience into the conflicted position of choosing sides when neither is right. Laskar is equipped with the raw ability to weave in and out attitudes that makes Shazia sympathetically lovely, and Laskar a genuinely stellar upcoming talent.
Lastly, a quartet of wily vultures provides a compass that leads through the intricate terrains of Parts of Parts & Stitches from start to finish. The flock of vultures, made up of Dathan B. Williams (A Home Across The Ocean), Antonio Miniño (The Stranger to Kindness), Deanna McGovern (An Impending Rupture of the Belly), and Eric Percival (The Picture of Dorian Gray), together, commands the attention from every edge of the theater. Their strong work of brawn and grace are the seams in Sachdeva’s suture that keeps the story from being lost into chaotic oblivion.
It must be said that while Sachdeva is creative and daring in her writing there are some particular scenes that is unnecessarily uncomfortable. The first of which is the first night of the newly weds where Sachdeva’s dialogues between the newly weds are unapologetically slow. Instances where the playwright intended to be cute we instead find scenes where her supposed traditional couple is unrealistically unorthodox and Western in their display of affection for one another.
Later, when Yamuna is frantically stitching her deceased lover together, it was preposterous for Sachdeva to have her character looking for his dismembered part among those of others. Her willingness to push the envelope in this tragedy does deserve praise, but the latter of these two contretemps goes on to disfigure the entire experience.
With a creative imaginative story challenges it’s audience, Sachdeva and the talented cast entertains for most of the one hundred and twenty minutes, during most of which the talented actors make this off Broadway production a spectacular tragedy, that even with the lengthy running time, deserves the spotlight, because it’s not everyday that one will learn about the other holy war over boundaries and land.