Simran is gifted, complex and haunted. Jasmeet, her younger sister, is the typical hip Toronto teenager. Together with Dilpreet, their delightfully overprotective and traditional father, they are frantically trying to get ready for the opening of their new sari shop on Gerrard Street. To achieve their life-long dreams, the family must come together to find new strength and exorcise the demons of their past. Charming, tragic, and full of life, this is a deeply moving story about the taboo around mental health issues in the South Asian community, and the power of familial ties in the face of adversity.
Toronto’s Factory Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Little Pretty and The Exceptional, written by Anusree Roy and directed by Brendan Healy, throughout the month of April. Opening night will take place on Thursday, April 6th.
Though both Roy and Healy are award winning artists, the excitement about a play which has them both at the helm comes from their mutual ability to fascinate and confront audiences.
The play stars Shelly Antony (Perceptions of Love in the Pursuit of Happiness/Toronto Fringe, Scarberia/YPT) as Iyar, Shruti Kothari (Hamlet, Love’s Labour’s Lost/Stratford Festival, James and the Giant Peach/YPT) as Jasmeet, Farah Merani (Trompe-LaMort, or Goriot in the 21st Century/Summerworks, The Dinner/Toronto Fringe) as Simran and Sugith Varughese (Indian Ink/CanStage, Bhopal/Cahoots) as Dilpreet.
Asked to share what excites them about being a part of the production, the cast had much to say!
Shelly Antony: First of all it is a brilliant play and working with Anusree has been a goal of mine. I am very excited that it’s finally happened. Secondly doing a play about a South Asian family in Toronto living on Gerrard Street was fascinating to me because of the proximity to the stories of many people I know.
Also the character I play is of Tamil descent and for me it’s the first time on stage that I have shared the same ethnicity with a character. In many ways it’s sort of a homecoming for me. This play also celebrates the working class identity of most South Asian immigrant families and through the play I’m able to say THANK YOU to my parents and celebrate their hard work, sacrifices and commitment to my brothers and me.
Farah Merani: The simple answer is that Anusree has written a truly beautiful piece. The detailed answer is more layered. I’ll start with Simran, the character I play. She’s so wonderfully complex in the scope of her experiences and her journey through the play is fascinating to witness. She toes the line between two worlds with such care that the heart of her story resonates with a profound truth.
It’s rare to be given such a gift as an actor, a bonafide ‘dream role’! Also, the play deals with some very topical issues facing many communities, even though it’s been written specifically about a South Asian family. I’d never worked with Brendan before so I was pumped to seize the opportunity and being a part of Factory’s Canada 150 season was an honour in and of itself.”
Sugith Varughese: Anusree has written an astonishing play and a gigantic character in Dilpreet. He is my father and all the immigrant fathers who came here for a better life and fought private battles just to belong and find a place for their families. I was compelled to play him and I just hope I do him justice.
Shruti Kothari: Getting cast. (Kidding)
This is a beautiful script: I was very lucky to have known Iris Turcott who was the original dramaturge. She recommended I come in to read for the part of Jasmeet back when the script was still being workshopped. After I read the script I knew that this was a piece I HAD to be a part of.
Firstly, getting to work with Anusree was something I really wanted to do because I so respect the voice she’s brought to Toronto theatre. Secondly, the play deals with so many relevant issues not just within the South Asian community but within all communities at large. Thirdly, I fell in love with Jasmeet — everything she represents, her intelligence, her passion and her vulnerability. I knew that this was a part I had to play and was so keen to tackle.
I am very grateful to be a part of the birth of this piece.