The Oldest Boy: A Play in Three Ceremonies

Farrar. Mar. 2016. 146p. ISBN 9780374535872. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780374714598. THEATER
This latest play by prize-winning playwright Ruhl (In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play; The Clean House) is a work of deceptive simplicity and abundant charm. In two acts (ten scenes), it characterizes Buddhism, reincarnation, and the tribulations of exiled Tibetans. It also considers the steely bands of a mother's love, but that love must become elastic enough to accommodate something unexpected yet fated. It casts light on a collision of cultures, with an ending that elicits a gasp of surprise. One can only hope that a production of it will be as rewarding to see as the script is to read. Casting will be easy only in larger communities with a substantial South Asian population (it calls for a number of Tibetan characters), though Ruhl explicitly allows for "creative casting." It also calls for a child-size puppet and attendant puppeteer. Professional, academic, and amateur theater groups will be interested in considering this play for production.
VERDICT Ruhl's play has the potential to be a very satisfying and rewarding production.
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