26 July 2009

“Baba’s L.P. Party” Comes to Myrtle Beach

Mehernosh Mehta as Meher Baba in the play

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking my dog in Briarcliffe, near Meher Center, when I saw Bryan West zip by on his bike, sporting a new mustache. I called out, “You look like an Iranian!” and he yelled back, “That’s good!” At the time I had no idea Bryan would be appearing in the role of Eruch Jessawala in this past week’s performance of Baba’s L.P. Party, a play written by Mark Riney—“an interactive musical comedy in the round.” For the first time ever, the chairs in the Meeting Place at Meher Center were rearranged, on several levels surrounding the central stage, transforming that familiar venue into an intimate theatrical space where we the audience felt we were right in the midst of the action.

It is impossible for me to summarize the plot of this play, which is a joyful celebration of synchronicity that should make every baby-boomer Baba-lover exclaim, “Far out!” Suffice it to say that, with a little help from his friends, Mark succeeded in bringing together numerous realms of time and space, ranging from a pair of dudes hanging out in front of a present-day Myrtle Beach donut shop, to the “Three Incredible Weeks” in 1954 when nineteen Western men were invited to be with Baba in India, to a historic 1964 meeting at which Bob Dylan turned on the Beatles at the Hotel Delmonico in New York City (wow, the same place where Baba received people in his room in 1956), and Paul McCartney’s revelation of the Meaning of Life: “There are seven levels.” What can I say—you hadda be there.

This multimedia production combined painted set design, video, audio of Eruch in Mandali Hall, recorded and live music, and dance. The music included the old LPs played for Baba at the 1954 gathering, such as the exotic singing of Yma Sumac (while her record was played, she was memorably re-created by a vividly costumed and lip-synching Bobbi Bernstein). Humorous speculation about what kind of music Baba would consider the "seventh shadow" of God's voice gave the opportunity to present audio and video of various golden oldies, and to see an impressive B-52s impression performed live by extremely hip tiny children. And then there was the “Song of the Wind,” verses Darwin Shaw wrote, inspired by Baba’s beauty, during the Three Incredible Weeks; it was sung in two versions by Jonathan Burroughs and David Walsh.

Let the song of the wind ever remind you of My Love.

Let its soul-healing balm sigh through your being wherever you are;

And know that I have loved you as only God can love;

And be sure that I will love you thus throughout Eternity.

Know, beloved, that you are Mine forever.

That I have called you from the realm of illusion

To caress you with Love, with LOVE DIVINE.

There were many fine performances by the actors, including Bill Le Page playing himself and Charlie Eaton playing his own late grandfather, Frank Eaton (both of whom attended the 1954 men’s meeting). Otherwise I will only single out for mention the outstanding portrayal of Meher Baba by Mehernosh Mehta, who is, I believe, from Mumbai. I had met Mehernosh at the Center a few days before, and never would I have guessed how this unassuming man could transform himself into the animated likeness of Baba in his pink coat, smiling, gesturing, wielding an alphabet board, and distributing prasad to the audience as a finale to the play.

At times I felt that, like Baba himself, Mehernosh seemed to be the only alive person in the room. By this I do not mean that any of the other performances were lackluster. Far from it—everyone projected tremendous energy. But you could not help being magnetized by the portrayal of Baba. Only when Baba himself appeared on the movie screen was the illusion broken. Still, when the lights were down at certain points, I looked at Mehernosh’s silhouette in the dark and could tell he was concentrating on remaining in character. What a meditation this performance was for him, and for us.


Jay said...

Good review, Kendra! Here's a quick story of just how well Mehernosh Mehta transformed into Baba for the play. My housemate Lisa Sandford was in the front row on Wednesday, and after Mehernosh as Baba had walked by here, after the play, by about four or five people, Lisa had the thought, "Oh I wish I could get one of those Baba caresses to both cheeks*. Right at that point, Mehernosh/Baba pivoted in this tracks, came back to Lisa, and with both hands lovingly caressed both cheeks! I myself, Attending opening night Tuesday, was singled out for such loving treatment, and I can say That Baba at that play may have been more real for me than any other experience in this lifetime so far! Jai Baba!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kendra.
I wish I was there.
Mehernosh has played Baba many times in Meherabad and it is quite uncanny and absorbing.
I am really happy for Mark to have brought his vision to life and to bring many talents together and to have Bill Lepage there to play himself.
I am sure Baba enjoyed it all.
Jai Baba Bob Fredericks

Louise said...

I agree. Mehernosh's portrayal was spellbinding. And as a cast member I can say that he would go into character before his entrance and stayed in it unwaveringly. Of course Baba's presence is always on the Center, especially when we're all together, but having such a precise portrayal of Baba, with His real gestures and such accurate body movements and facial expressions was truly an amazing experience for those of us who were never in Baba's physical presence.

Anonymous said...

How joyful to kmow on this young performer from Mumbai!!!

Ilive in Mumbai I visit the samadhi yet have no clue till Kendra mentioned it this week.... To potray Meher baba for a baba lover is heart warming...Jai baba.

All quotes of Meher Baba © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust unless otherwise indicated. Writings by Kendra are © Kendra Crossen Burroughs unless otherwise noted.