by Tom Stoppard
Directed by Carey Perloff
Featuring Rosemary Harris, Romala Garai, Firdous Bamji,
Bhavesh Patel and Neal Huff
A Production of the Roundabout Theatre Company
at the Laura Pels Theatre

Reviewed by David Spencer

It’s hard to assess the current Roundabout production of Tom Stoppard’s 1995 play Indian Ink (receiving what is, in any meaningful way, its first NYC production), because it’s hard to assess whether director Carey Perloff has hit the right tone or whether he’s a bit sidelined by a script that, while more than entertaining, is not one of Stoppard’s best or best constructed.

            It’s about a period in 1930, in which our heroine, a renowned poet named Flora Crewe (Romola Garai) visits India for her health, but winds up staying for reasons of cultural fascination and possibly romance with a local artist (Firdous Bamji). The play, set in two timelines, gives us the narrative from the perspective of her existing diaries and how people in the 1980s—in particular the sister who survived her (Rosemary Harris), an awed historian (Neal Huff) and the now-deceased artist’s son (Bhavesh Patel).

            I think the play means to show how a very human story is subject to reconstruction when it can only be told through evidence that survives, and how that evidence can be subject to radically different interpretations; at the same time, though, Stoppard doesn’t truly explore distortion, the story he gives us seems real enough—he just winks at us with the odd wrong guess or two, or the enigma that doesn’t matter or change things very much. So while there’s a sweetness to the central story, it seems light; and the framework not very resonant as commentary and retrospection.

            As with most of Stoppard’s plays, there’s no denying you’re in the hands of a master dramatist, and the performances are all fine, some of them very much more than that, so I don’t at all mean to dissuade you from attending. But the purpose of the endgame seems as amorphous as the debatable details.

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