In the most powerful performance of the evening, Puri appears in reddened darkness, speaking in a deep, guttural voice. Gradually she materializes—her face marked with ashes, her hair loose below a topknot, her shirt red, and red beads around her neck. She is more powerful, fiercer, and more frightening than the evil laughter heard on tape. In this scene, she is speaking-acting out the struggle between gods and demons for amrita, the nectar of immortality. I think I see her represent the two opposing forces pulling on a giant snake to churn up the sea of milk and release amrita in its foam. I thought I heard her say that the waters of the Ganges turn to nectar every 12 years. And surely that’s Coleridge’s Kubla Khan that she’s quoting: “For he on honeydew hath fed and drunk the milk of Paradise.” Her colleagues, costumed and coiffed like her, assist in a ceremony involving a glowing trident, and at the end, the stage is flooded with blue light and images of water. Whew!

Elizabeth Streb’s “action heroes” in "Catapult"
Tom Caravaglia
Elizabeth Streb’s “action heroes” in "Catapult"
Rajika Puri and Dancers in "Tapasya"
Stephanie Berger
Rajika Puri and Dancers in "Tapasya"


Streb Extreme Action
51 North 1st Street, Williamsburg, 212-352-3101
Through May 17

Rajika Puri and Dancers
Joyce Soho
May 7 through 10

I run home, exhilarated, if slightly baffled, and try to find a path through the beguiling seductions, marital wrangles, deceptions, and holy manifestations that the gods of the Hindu pantheon thrive on. No sacred water for me, alas, just a refreshing dive into Google.

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