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Mixed Blood follows three teens with a bucket list

Rich Ryan

Rich Ryan

Cross The Perks of Being a Wallflower with O Brother, Where Art Thou? — but substitute Indian gods for Greek — and you have some idea of what you’re getting with Aditi Brennan Kapil’s new play, Orange.

Orange

Mixed Blood Theatre
Free; $25 guaranteed seating

The piece, now at Mixed Blood Theatre under the direction of Jack Reuler, follows three teens on an overnight odyssey in Orange County. Pree (Lipica Shah) and her cousin Leela (Annelyse Ahmad) steal away from a boring family wedding to meet up with Gar (Owais Ahmed), Pree’s friend-zoned classmate. About to move away for college, Pree produces a bucket list that she and Gar drew up years ago. The list becomes a blueprint for the night, as the three climb billboards and excavate time capsules together.

Though Leela and Pree were playmates as young children, Leela’s lived a different life since: She and her mother have been residing in India at the behest of Leela’s father, who may be distancing himself from Leela because she’s on the autism spectrum. Leela’s California adventure becomes both a journal of personal discovery and a quest for help from the gods.

There’s a lot going on in this 90-minute play, to the point where the thick layers of meaning threaten to smother the characters. Kapil has crafted her script skillfully, but there’s such a vast amount of character development to accomplish that the show feels like it’s heaving itself over the finish line, having finally given the audience all the information we need.

The show’s title is symptomatic of this over-determination. It refers to the county, to a fruit, and to a “black box” flight recorder, which, the detail-oriented Leela notes, is actually orange.

Leela stands out as a powerful character, thanks in large part to Ahmad’s disciplined and sympathetic performance. Though Pree often feels like a caricature and Gar has to spend much of the play being stiff and resentful before we fully understand why, their road trip serves as a poignant context for the parallel journey of Leela, who’s trying to figure out what coming of age means for her.

Leela’s constantly drawing in her notebook, and we see her work take shape via projection screens. Rather than serving to tell us anything new about Leela, though, Megan Reilly’s illustrations largely function as set elements that establish the context of each scene. Joseph Stanley has designed an unusual bridge-like stage, with the audience seated on either side of a narrow platform containing hidden elements that pop out and then disappear again as the show progresses.

The most powerful moments in Orange come when Leela is testing her ability to be alone. As she stands on the beach trying to make sense of everything she’s experiencing, we feel her thrill and her trepidation. Then, Leela’s familiar world comes crowding back in — for better and for worse.

IF YOU GO:

Orange
Mixed Blood Theatre
1501 S. Fourth St., Minneapolis
612-338-6131; through December 4