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‘Elephant’ in the Room: New Zealand troupe brings a tale of modern India to Monmouth University

The Center for the Arts at Monmouth University has announced that tickets are on sale for a one-night, exclusive area engagement of a play that’s been called “an outrageously funny and heartbreakingly beautiful romantic thriller” — The Elephant Wrestler.

Scheduled for a single 8 p.m. performance at the Pollak Theatre on November 7, this performance represents the first-ever coastal New Jersey appearance for New Zealand’s internationally touring Indian Ink Theatre Company. Having played to great acclaim in front of audiences on several continents, this human tale of a culture at a crossroads is the latest dramatic offering in the 20th annual slate of Performing Arts Series events at Monmouth.

While no actual pachyderms are wrestled live onstage, the script by Indian Ink co-founders Justin Lewis and Jacob Rajan grapples with the even weightier issue of national identity in modern India; a place where an increasingly tech-driven economy and its dazzling devices competes for attention with the ancient Gods of Hindu divinity.

It’s there in the bustling Bangalore train station that a street vendor named Kutisar dispenses tea to the travelers who pass through the portal to the city, like the hardworking “Guru of Chai” (the play’s original title) that he is. The deities, however, have other responsibilities lined up for the humble chaiwallah, beginning with the appearance of a young girl who has seemingly been abandoned at the station — a girl who proceeds to “bring the place to a standstill with the beauty of her singing,” and who presents the chai peddler with the challenge of “solving the interwoven mysteries of true love, tragedy and joy.”

Playwright Rajan portrays Kutisar in a performance that’s been hailed as “sheer brilliance;” a characterization inspired by a real-life figure who “literally danced into our lives, and into the pages of this play…you can’t write someone like this; you have to meet him.”

With this touring production, North American theatergoers are getting their first look at this latest success from the team that established the Auckland, NZ-based Indian Ink Theatre Company in 1997 — a partnership whose previous plays have been published and taught in university drama departments. Here in our milestone 10th Anniversary year, the Center for the Arts at Monmouth University welcomes the Indian Ink troupe as part of an ongoing program that’s brought a world of cultural enlightenment and excitement to coastal New Jersey audiences.

Tickets for The Elephant Wrestler are priced at $35/$45/$55 and can be reserved through the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889, or online at

Tickets for other upcoming concerts in the new season of Performing Arts events — including Madeleine Peyroux (November 13) and Hugh Masekela and Larry Willis (November 14)— are on sale now.

To schedule interviews, please contact Kelly Barratt at 732-263-5114.