“Ramayana” the Great Hindu Epic at ACT

The ACT production of Ramayana transports its Seattle audiences to the allegorical world of ancient India and southeast Asia. It’s a world of brilliant colors, human tribulations and victories, a world of magical happenings, demons, and monsters. It’s a saga of heroic acts, undying love, and honor pitted against jealousy, evil, and supernatural powers.

For those willing to be transported to another reality, to be introduced to one of the world’s great religious epics, this is a theatrical must see.

Directors Kurt Beattie and Sheila Daniels draw us in at the first instant when the charming child actor Akhi Vadari enters the stage and sings a praise song for Rama, the hero of this beloved Hindu tale. As the story begins we learn that Rama’s father needs a little supernatural intervention to impregnate any one of his three wives. He gets it, and winds up with four sons.

Son Rama is destined to succeed the king, but the jealous mother of his brother Bharata makes sure that doesn’t happen. Instead Rama is banished to the forest for 14 years. His steadfast wife Sita joins him, and thus begins the heroic tale in which good eventually triumphs over evil.

The script adapted by Seattleites Yussef El Guindi and Stephanie Timm is carefully structured to give audiences full understanding of the story, its meaning, and its moral lessons, of which there are many. They make this epic from another culture fully accessible. Matthew Smucker’s scenic design and Mary Louise Geiger’s lighting and the work of the rest of the production staff make it magical.

You’ll gasp; you’ll laugh; you’ll wince; you’ll nod in approval. And if you’re like me, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this cross-cultural experience that proves that basic human values are essentially the same in all social groups.

As an added attraction, the theatre has invited a number of Seattle’s South Asian and Southeast Asian communities to enrich the experience of the Ramayana by offering Asian markets and food stalls in the lobby space before and after the performance. And don’t forget that the Seattle Asian Art Museum is currently featuring a series of exhibitions that focus on Rama and his extraordinary adventures.

Through Nov. 11 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle (206 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org).

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