Merchant on Venice

Rasaka Theatre Company and Vitalist Theatre Company present:


March 20 – April 15, 2018
Greenhouse Theater
2257 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60614


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explores empathy and grace, as well as blame and  internalized and externalized religious bigotry, while mixing with the clash/mash of culture of South Asian culture in LA.

A tragi-comic, raucous, dark and irreverent work, Kurup’s play is set on Venice Boulevard in present day Culver City, California – a section of the Los Angeles area where hatred and intolerance among Hindus and Muslims has grown to a boiling point. 

With rock-and- roll and Bollywood-influenced music, blank verse and present day pop references — replete with Indian, American and Latino jargon that reflect the sound of the South Asian Diaspora as well as the polyglot crackle of Los Angeles — the play explores how the preponderance of power in one sector of a community can marginalize a minority, and provoke reactionary and retributive responses.

Jitendra, a Hindu actor, has fled Bollywood stardom to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood. To secure backing for his “India-Indie flick with crossover appeal” he schemes to marry a rich young heiress, Pushpa Shah, and in the process endangers the life of his best friend, Devendra, by becoming entangled with Devendra’s nemesis, Sharuk, a Muslim money-lender.  Pushpa, is in love with Jitendra, but as per her father’s will, must marry only a man who can pass a multi-media test.

Written in an iambic pentameter replete with Indian, American and Latino jargon, Merchant on Venice reflects the many different sounds of the South Asian Diaspora as well as the polyglot crackle of Los Angeles. The play contains songs and incidental music, also by Kurup, influenced by both rock-and-roll and Bollywood movie songs further highlighting the clash/mash of culture that is so evidently the “masala” of the South Asian Diaspora. Merchant explores the nature of empathy and grace as well as blame, personal responsibility and internalized and externalized religious bigotry through the dreams, hopes and biases of the various characters as they pine and connive in the Los Angeles of the new Millennium.

Sunny Anam Murali, u/s Devender
Simi Bal Ensemble, u/s Noorani
Micah Bevis u/s Tooranpoi
Anand Bhatt Yogananda, Pujari
Luisa Blanco Noorani    
Sumeet Chhabra Toufiq, u/s Murali
Suzan Fakhoury Pushpa  
David Fink Rasik   
Dennis Garcia Armando 
Kamal Hans Jitender
Anish Jethmalani* Sharuk
Murtaza Kapasi Aravind, Ensemble, u/s Jitender, u/s Amitabh
Chris Khoshaba u/s Sharuk
Alka Nayyar* Kavita    
Sophia Rafiqi u/s Kavita
Siddhartha Rajan Amitabh  
Madrid St. Angelo* Devender 
Priyank Thakkar Tooranpoi, S.A.B.U. REP 
Ben Veatch Shivananda, Ensemble   

 * Denotes Member of Actors Equity Association

2007 World Premiere Production Reviews:

  • Named One of the Top Ten Plays of the Year by
  • Chicago Sun-Times (‘Highly Recommended’)
  • Chicago Tribune (‘Hottest Ticket in Town’)
  • Time Out Magazine (‘Bracing…Ingenious’)
  • “FOUR STARS” : Gay Chicago Magazine
  • “HIGHLY RECOMMENDED” : Daily Herald
  • “CRITIC’S PICK” : Eight-Forty-Eight, WBEZ Radio

(Reviews courtesy of Silk Road Rising from the 2007 world premiere production)


Kamal Hans Producer/Artistic Director for Rasaka Theatre: 
Liz Carlin Metz Producer/Artistic Director for Vitalist Theatre: 
Alka Nayyar* Producing Managing Director for Rasaka Theatre: 
Anish Jethmalani* Co-Producer for Rasaka Theatre: 
Shishir Kurup* Playwright: 
Emily Antoff Assistant Director: 
Kathleen Dickinson Production Manager: 
Bailey Howard* Stage Manager:  
Nicholas Hittner-Cunningham Asst Stage Manager
Alka Nayyar* Choreographer/Dramaturg:
Rachel Sypniewski Costume Designer:
Tracee Baer Assistant Costume Designer:
Erik Barry Lighting Designer:
Craig Choma Set Designer:
Gregor Mortis Sound Designer:
Kevin Scott Tech Director: 
Marty Helms Master Carpenter:
Theresa Murphy Master Electrician:
Zachary Ridgway Barner Projections:
Kim Lyle Graphic Designer:
John Olson PR Coordinator:
Joe Mazza, Scott Dray Production Photographer: