Guards at the Taj (2018)
Underground Railway Theater - Cambridge, MA
Voted Best of Boston Theatre 2018: Boston Globe, DigBoston
Nominated Best Play, 2018 IRNE awards
"Director Gabriel Vega Weissman has managed to cast a dream team with Athyal and Gagoomal, who project an uneasy arc of affection that rises and falls throughout the piece, as old friends with different temperaments will have. Athyal plays Humayan with heartbreaking restraint as he struggles with doing the “right” thing. Gagoomal’s Babur is goofy, more buoyant, which belies a deeper integrity and thoughtfulness. Both actors have wonderful comic timing, which works well against some of the script’s more sorrowful moments."
--Michele Markarian, The Theater Mirror
"Athyal and Gagoomal have remarkable chemistry and are giving performances of tremendous range and depth."
--Christopher Ehlers, DigBoston
"Friends since childhood, their names are Humayun and Babur, portrayed by Jacob Athyal and Harsh J. Gagoomal, respectively. Both actors deliver marvelously textured portrayals; Humayun and Babur may ultimately be pawns in a large and ruthless game, but Athyal and Gagoomal endow them with an individuality and specificity that elevates the moral and emotional stakes of “Guards at the Taj.’’
Athyal and Gagoomal deftly handle the transition from the darkly comic tone that prevails in the beginning of “Guards’’ to the aura of horror that then asserts itself, and then they vividly delineate the interpersonal fallout of that horror. As Gagoomal’s Babur rebels against what he sees as a threat to the very idea of beauty while Athyal’s Humayun responds to a different kind of threat, the actors make us feel at every moment how much their actions are costing the friends."
--Donn Aucoin, The Boston Globe
"Although there aren’t any extreme scene changes or fight scenes happening on stage, the chemistry that the two guards have is undeniably touching and heartwarming. … Instantaneously, you develop a close connection with these characters. Both Athyal and Gagoomal do an impeccable job fleshing out their roles, sparking life into the production.
But new dawns cast new shadows. The people who built the Taj, under the orders of the Shah, must have their hands removed. And the people to do so? Humayun and Babur. Any pretense that Guards at The Taj had of being peaceful gets thrown out of the window. It quickly becomes a deeply philosophical play. Every second, you are plagued with an unspeakable despair. For a play to even broach that territory is a feat. Both Gagoomal and Athyal must be commended for reflecting this subtle change so precisely that it’s unbelievable that they could play such extremes in personalities.
Celestial luminary that it is, Guards at the Taj will break your world and put it back together again. If not for the amazing acting and stagecraft, then watch it for its glorious beating heart."
--Johnson Huynh, The Tech
"Gagoomal is utterly convincing as a man coming undone by imperial decree."
--Ling-Mei Wong, SAMPAN
"Athyal plays Humayun as a straight man, but the actor gives us flashes of boyishness at key moments. In contrast, Gagoomal revels in acting the fool, running right up to the brink of obnoxiousness. The humor in his performance does more than entertain: it sets the stage for the traumatic action to come.
Admirably, neither actor loses sight of the essence of his character through these dramatic shifts. Joseph’s strong dialogue and director Gabriel Vega Weissman’s confidence provide firm guidance. The actors don’t wallow in their characters’ role in the narrative’s cruel events. Instead they emphasize the infectious joy and meandering curiosity of their friendship. Athyal and Gagoomal are at their best when they are exploring possibilities, when they feel free to run with whatever exciting thoughts come into their heads. This trait survives in spite of the despair and anguish that dominate the later parts of the play."
--David Cruz, The Arts Fuse
"Featuring Jacob Athyal as the serious guard and perfect foil for the exceptional comedic talent of Harsh J. Gagoomal."
--Susan Mulford, Boston and Beyond
"Jacob Athyal catches Humayun’s tough love with Babur, played with appealing energy and flamboyance by Harsh J. Gagoomal."
--Jules Becker, Boston Theatre Wings
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (2017, 2018)
Red Theater Chicago - Chicago, IL
out of 4 stars
2017 Top 10 Best Off-Loop Productions – Chicago Tribune
2017 Top 5 Shows (#1) – The Hawk Chicago
2017 Top 5 Shows (#2) – Theatre by the Numbers
2017 Top 10 Best Moments – Chicago Inclusion Project
2017 Best Revival of a Play Nomination – Broadway World
2017 Jeff Recommendation
"Tey’s performance was alive and encouraging, and his fellow cast members provided lots of laughs amid their ever-developing signature moves. Harsh Gagoomal excelled as Mace’s friend VP, and Semaj Miller brought two tons of energy to his elaborate entrance as Chad Deity."
--Sarah Bowden, Theatre By Numbers
"Gagoomal is smooth and honest as an operator with a soul."
--Sarah Bowden, Theatre by Numbers
Check out this interview with Mia Park from the Chicago Asian Network about 'Chad Deity' and my personal story!
Listen to our WGN Radio Feature with Amy Guth and Jen Bosworth:
"Amy Guth and Jen Bosworth are back in action tonight for Patti Vasquez! On tonight’s show they welcome actors from 'The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity' (Harsh J. Gagoomal, Semaj Miller, and Mickey O’Sullivan) who discuss their impressive run at the Red Theatre."
An Octoroon (2016)
Company One Theatre/ArtsEmerson - Boston, MA
"The performances by the cast are very good. Almost too good because there is no denying the visceral experience of anger and pain they trigger."
--Kitty Drexel, The New England Theatre Geek
"Company One’s actors are top notch"
--Jess Viator, The Arts Fuse
"Harsh Gagoomal (who also plays three roles: the assistant, Pete and Paul) is a chameleon able to inspire pity one moment, elation the next – but always with the melancholy undertone demanded by his roles."
--Anastasya Partan, CulturePeel
"Harsh Gagoomal, deadpan funny as BJJ's harried assistant in the framing scenes, is sweet and quietly strong as the young slave Paul and suitably excitable as the shuffling old retainer Pete."
--Jan Nargi, Broadway World Boston
"The real stars burst forth around the traditional A-plot, in the form of various house slaves, field hands, and other characters that once lingered in the dramatic background. Harsh Gagoomal stoops to play the ancient house servant Pete, a folk-figure as ludicrous in his worship of the Peytons, and in his quarrels with the other “no-account” slaves, as he was at home in his original nineteenth century context. Gagoomal turns sprightly as he morphs into Paul, the quadroon tap-dancing prankster all the white people like to fawn over."
--Fabiana Cabral, My Entertainment World
"Harsh Gagoomal, in blackface, jumps between offensive if guilt-inducingly funny stereotypes as an elderly Uncle Tom called Pete and a whiny slave boy called Paul."
--Carolyn Clay, The Artery
"Lastly, a South Asian assistant is given the black face roles in a touching though largely silent performance by Harsh Gagoomal."
--Clint Campbell, Edge Media Network
"Director Summer L. Williams deserves credit for drawing complex performances from a dynamic cast, seamlessly blending from the stark opening scenes of the play into the melodramatic play-within-the-play, even as three of the actors take on multiple roles with distinction.
The slaves are fully realized by Gagoomal's loud, shuffling Pete; the outspoken and vividly animated characters of Borders and Janice; and Lumpkin's wailing, hapless victim."
--Nancy Grossman, Talkin' Broadway
See below for some excerpts from a column in wbur's The Artery, "Unmasking Identity in Company One's 'An Octoroon'" by Spencer Shannon. Read the full article here!
“When I see these three faces that I have come to know and love as these three faces, and then we layer on this paint, and we say, ‘You are now this thing,’ … That in and of itself rings your brain a little bit,” she says, referring to the fluidity of the three male leads' identities.
“I’m looking at you and you are visually telling me that you are a white man, but what does it mean that you have brown skin underneath? And what does it mean in terms of the marrow of who you are? All of a sudden, there are all of these layers that are being visually expressed,” [Director Summer] Williams says.
When asked what they hope to inspire in viewers, the casts’ answers are instantaneous: Awareness. Introspection.
“I think Tennessee Williams said, ‘Good playwrights pose questions, not answers,’” Gagoomal says. “I don’t know if [audiences] need answers at all. But I hope they come out with a s---ton of questions.”