Evocative Theatre, Seamlessly Performed: ‘The Chronicles of Kalki’ hits the Moxie Stage
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, May 15
Moxie Theatre knows a good thing when they see it and dives in courageously; such is this case with their newest offering, the San Diego premiere of The Chronicles of Kalki, written by Aditi Brennan Kapil, running through June 4.
Woven with threads of Hindu heritage and set in a modern day high school, the play pushes boundaries and tackles issues experienced by our youth: how they cope with trauma and bullying, their navigation of personal and social demons, and the discovery and embracing of their most true and authentic selves. The only named character is Kalki (Farah Dinga), an edgy young woman who has recently disappeared. A local detective (Javier Guerrero) works to tease out the events prior to her vanishing, interviewing Girl #1 (Kailey Agpaoa) and Girl #2 (Mikaela Rae Macias), exposing the audience through brief recall sequences to the idea that that Kalki might or might not have been the final avatar of Vishnu, having emerged from the mud of the school field and then appeared suddenly in religion class alongside the two teens. Bearing a confidence that is unmistakable and speaking through prose too artistic to ring true in the high school halls, Kalki seems determined to tie the estranged friend duo back together and is unafraid to get into some trouble along the way.
Directed by Desireé Clarke Miller, The Chronicles of Kalki is made powerful not only by the metaphor of its script, but also by the power and intensity of its quartet of performers. Leading the charge is Dinga, dynamic as the disruptive Kalki, a force of nature who drags her accomplices into a series of tight situations. Macias begins the production intensely and unapologetically detached from her former friend, but Kalki’s influence encourages her to become more and more connected over the course of the production as she begins to develop a comfort and familiarity with both herself and her relationships. Shining from the first line of the show and through the end is Agpaoa, who delivers alternately vapid and scathing monologues and tackles some of the most painful and vulnerable moments in the script. Her performance is stunning. Guerrero also does a solid job as the trying-to-hang-with-the-kids-but-knows-his-job cop.
The set of Kalki, under the creative purview of scenic designer Divya Murthy Kumar, has clear comic book inspirations. On one edge of the stage, a bookshelf and small bed appear under a large glass window, the wall cutting out abruptly as it approaches centerstage. On the opposite site, a half concrete wall and a metal chair imply the structural block of a police interrogation room and, in the meanwhile, large wooden frames - and, at times, LED light ropes - are suspended in midair, around which the actors must navigate.
Sound design by Eliza Vedar and light design by Maile Varian also stand out in this production. A variety of ambient noises and directional lights help situate the characters in the range of venues: a convenience store, a school, a police station, and even a college party, and are always accompanied by the cacophony of continually pattering rain.
The characters’ costumes (Danita Lee) are effective at conveying the different personalities of the three young women and Kalki's apparel evolves in small ways over the course of the production as she becomes increasingly vexed with the "human world" - this evolution becomes even more interesting when the play's resolution ultimatley arrives.
The Chronicles of Kalki is not a production for the faint of heart, but it is a compelling portrait of resiliency, growth, and transformation following trauma; it can be seen at Moxie Theatre through June 4.