The Indian American

40 THE INDIAN AMERICAN OCTOBER-DECEMBER 2018 of a shooting at the gurdwara back home. Vishal, who drives down to get her, informs her, a member of her own family is also one of the victims. The dead and injured in the attack are all neighbors, friends, relatives; the town is in shock. Boz leaves the key of her bar to a customer (played by Nate Miller) she had met only minutes ago, rushes back home. Backhaus, who is an Indian American, with her mother having Punjabi roots, tries to look at both assimilation and dislocation of second generation immi- grants in America from different per- spectives, weaving in flashbacks from yesteryears. She gives a peek into the arduous task of keeping tradition alive in a commu- nity where the young want to break free of antique shackles that restrict them; the aura and lure of modernity that can easily dwarf precious customs cher- ished by Sikhs. Where India Pale Ale falls disconcert- ingly flat, comes across as broken and maimed on stage, is the strange and startling concoction of humor and tragedy, the futile weaving of laughter and pain. It proves to be as impossible a task as mixing oil and water to make a heady combination, for all to savor with one large gulp. Compounding its complexity of nuances is the reality that in today’s world where tragedy comes too often in the form of a shooting rampage, and one is wary in every public gathering, humor and punchlines in such a story- line is like rain in a desert: it vanishes before it touches the ground. While the play attempts to find a bal- ance between tragedy and getting back up in the face of racial discrimination, to show how a small town can rise together to counter sudden violence by restoring normalcy in its routine – in this case reopening the gurdwara after the massacre and start its popular lan- gar (free meals doled out by gurdwaras) again, it struggles to display either depth of suffering or the right amount of restrained joviality. Instead, action, mannerisms and dialogue appear rushed, and contrived. The result is a two-hour long play that rapidly loses momentum, and purpose, except to reach out for tepid, clichéd conclusions. A dance number in ‘India Pale Ale’. Alok Tewari as Sunny Batra is in the turban. Photo: Joan Marcus.