Trouble brews as family restaurant faces imminent closure

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Prayas brings Dhaba on Davon Avenue to Auckland theatre

Francesca Sie
Auckland, May 3, 2022

‘Dhaba on Devon Avenue is the next show from New Zealand’s biggest South Asian theatre company Prayas Theatre, showing at TAPAC from 26 May to 5 June 2022.

From American playwright Madhuri Shekar, this searing family drama blends King Lear and The Cherry Orchard in a story of fathers, daughters, and survival at all costs.

Prayas President and Co-Founder Amit Ohdedar said that once he got hold of Shekar’s play, he couldn’t put it down.

“I remember being totally immersed in the story, finishing it in one sitting. The character placements, the fluid dialogues, skilful scene set-up, the dynamicity of the entire story evolving within the confines of a restaurant kitchen, were all such clear attributes of a successful play script. The play made a passionate advocate out of me and soon thereafter, I was able to convince the rest of the group to feel the same.”

Ayesha Heble with Amit Ohdedar

Fighting to stay alive

So, with this, the critically acclaimed Prayas Theatre relocated Shekar’s witty and observant play to Auckland from its original Chicago to tell the story of Pooja, an elderly Indian restaurateur.

Pooja fights the closure of her 30-year-old Sindhi restaurant by insisting on maintaining her decades-strong authentic menu despite dwindling patronage, changing times, and a looming foreclosure, “Dhaba Canteen has been an institution since the 90s, with their delicious Sindhi food transporting customers back to the halcyon days of an undivided India. But now it’s on the verge of bankruptcy, and the family that’s run it for generations is ready to go to war over its fate.”

Dhaba on Devon Avenue is a play about generational change, race, and the immigrant experience inspired by Chicago’s South Asian community. This community is the third-largest population of South Asians in the USA, but the parallels with Auckland are many and infinitely relatable to diasporic South Asian communities in the Western world.

Narme Deva

Most importantly, the show speaks to the intergenerational conversation that happens between the young and the old, regardless of cultural background. What happens when the need to survive comes against the need to thrive? Or when holding onto legacy stops you from walking into the future? Shekar engages with these meaty topics, creating universally relatable stories that speak to, and beyond, the immigrant experience.

About Madhuri Shekar

Shekar is a shining new voice in US theatre, an alum of The Juilliard School’s Playwriting programme and a fellow at New Dramatists. In 2020, plans to mount the premiere season of Dhaba on Devon Avenue at Chicago’s Victory Theatre were dashed when the world went into lockdown and rehearsals were cut short. Prayas’ relocation of the tale to Aotearoa allows for an Antipodean interpretation of this exciting new work.

“It is a matter of great pride for us to bring to life the first-ever rendition of Madhuri Shekar’s latest work. This show is an exciting departure from the last few productions we have presented and offers a present-day slice of life view into the lives of South Asians in the diaspora today,” Ohdedar said on bringing Dhaba on Devon Avenue to New Zealand.

Namrata Mankame-Shanbag

Versatile Cast

The cast includes a mixture of Prayas mainstays and newcomers, including Ayesha Heble (A Fine Balance, First World Problems 2.0 and 3.0), Narme Deva (Yātrā, First World Problems 3.0), and Ohdedar. Newcomers to the company include Samantha Cheong and Namrata Mankame-Shanbag who is returning to the stage for the first time in a decade. The multi-talented Sananda Chatterjee sits in the Director’s seat to lead this ensemble.

This production continues Prayas Theatre’s successful 17-year run in the Aotearoa theatre scene, having fast become our country’s largest and most acclaimed South Asian community theatre and cultural group. This play, handpicked from abroad for its relevance, speaks to the company’s goal of producing work that speaks to both the wider audience of Aotearoa, but also the experiences of the South Asian people who live here, to share, integrate with and enhance the cultural mosaic of this land.

Samantha Cheong


Dhaba on Devon Avenue World Premiere
26 May – 5 June
TAPAC, 100 Motions Rd, Western Springs
Tickets: prices
Booking at TAPAC

Francesca Sie is a Publicist at Elephant Publicity, an Auckland based firm, that promotes Prayas and its productions.

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