THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM (Azuka): Impassioned and interesting sidestepping

Priyanka Shetty in THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. Photos by Johanna Austin/

In a world full of rooms which are full of elephants, a lot of sidestepping is required of us all.  This particular elephant is, at first, in a room located in India; the elephant then relocates to the U.S.

Written & performed by Priyanka Shetty and directed by Suli Holum, The Elephant in the Room provides an impassioned and interesting evening, although each day seems to bring us yet another feminist monologue, and in my ever so HO, a monologue is not a play. But I digress.

Priyanka narrates and enacts her own story, as she works up the courage to defy her mother, quit her IT job, cut her hair, get a tattoo and move to America to pursue a career in the theater. She gets a scholarship to the University of Virginia’s graduate program in acting, only to discover at the feet of the Jefferson Memorial, that no matter how hard she works, she is still the elephant in the room, an outsider, the Other.

The plot moves by chapters, each announced by a Tarot card, beginning with the elephant god, Ganesh, and represented by a little figurine of an elephant which she treasure and kisses, made in India but found in a Jersey flea market. What is what with these women who are so attached to these infantilizing toy animals (last night it was Heidi Schreck’s sock monkey? But I digressed again. Sorry.

Priyanka creates a rich character whose ambition and sense of betrayal and longing seems real and intense. There are some loose threads in the plot—her parents, her brief romance, her brother.  There is also a mystifying statement in her program note which explains the show’s wild musical interlude:  “What if we all embraced our inner metalheads, defying the forces that hold us back and resoundingly saying ‘yes’ to the strength that resides within us?”  If I had an inner—or even an outer—metalhead, I might be able to answer that question.

[Azuka Theater at the Louis Bluver Stage at the Drake] November 1-19, 2023;

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