Hindu Epic Becomes Solo Show

Oakland’s Ubuntu Theater Project unveils a new stage version of The Mahabharata that is a much more pared down, intimate affair than the original.


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Mahabharata performer J Jha.

Photo courtesy Ubuntu Theater Project

The ancient Sanskrit epic The Mahabharata is considered the longest poem ever written, roughly 10 times the length of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey combined. Believed to be at least 2,400 years old, it’s the long tale of five brothers known as the Pandava and their war with their cousins, the Kaurava, featuring many stories nested within the story and great philosophical asides. The entire Hindu text The Bhagavad Gita is one conversation from The Mahabharata between the warrior Arjuna and his charioteer Krishna on the way to a battle. Peter Brook’s 1985 theatrical adaptation lasted nine hours, cut down to five for the filmed version.

The new stage version that Oakland’s Ubuntu Theater Project unveils in November is a much more pared down, intimate affair. Re-rooting the tale in the oral tradition from which it came, Ubuntu’s Mahabharata is a solo show written by South Bay playwright Geetha Reddy (author of TheatreFIRST’s recent Far, Far Better Things) for performer J Jha, an Ubuntu company member seen in its productions of Waiting for Godot, Death of a Salesman, and Down Here Below, among others. The text is such a rich and seemingly endless wellspring of inspiration that it’ll be fascinating to see what sort of narrative Reddy and Jha weave from it.

Mahabharata plays Nov. 8-Dec. 1, Fri., Sat. 8 p.m., the FLAX Building, 1501 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland;,$15-$45; UbuntuTheaterProject.com.

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