Sakuntala | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Myth often seems like something belonging to long-vanished peoples. But for the Hindus of modern India, a living polytheistic culture, myth is not so distant.Sakuntala retells through dance and mime a myth from the Mahabharata, one of India's two great epic poems. Jennifer Savarirayan, who's studied both modern dance and the south Indian dance form bharata natyam, choreographed; she also dances the first section, which is classical Indian dance, full of stamping bare feet, delicate hand gestures (mudras), and seductively soft arms. She is absolutely convincing as the nymph Menaka, sent by the god Indra to seduce a too-powerful priest. Meghan Strell as her daughter Sakuntala communicates everything with her eyes, which is necessary for a title role with only 20 lines. Two musicians from Jellyeye, Whayne Braswell and Jacqueline Westhead, produce music that sounds Indian on Western instruments like zithers, recorders, and steel rototoms. Under Maria Muller's direction, this is a simple, colorful production with perfect pitch. At the Chicago Actors Ensemble, Preston Bradley Community Center, 941 W. Lawrence, 275-4463. Through December 17: Friday-Saturday, 10 PM. $5. Then at the Bailiwick Arts Center, 1229 W. Belmont, 883-1090. January 9 and 16: Mondays, 8 PM. $10.

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