A girl gang, comic books and a Hindu god mix at Moxie
Actor Farah Dinga grew up surrounded by video games and comic books, thanks to one of their cousins. One comic in particular might have prepared Dinga for the superhero role of Kalki in Moxie Theatre's "The Chronicles of Kalki."
"I started at a young age being a little nerd baby, and I got really obsessed with the original Catwoman comic books from the '90s. She was just killer. She was this awesome woman who was, you know, punching people when need be, and getting what she needed out of life," Dinga said. "And she looked really hot and cool while doing it. And I was like, that's the dream for little third grade Farah."
The main character in "The Chronicles of Kalki" is perhaps as unlikely a superhero as a woman-plus-cat: an avatar, or incarnation, of the Hindu god Vishnu as a teenage girl in a high school setting.
"The Chronicles of Kalki"
On stage at Moxie Theatre May 7 through Jun. 4, 2023.
Previews: May 7 and 11
Showtimes: Thursday through Sunday.
Mother's Day deal: use code BADASSMOTHER for buy one, get one free on Sunday, May 14.
Note: The play has a content advisory. Learn more here.
In Aditi Brennan Kapil's quick-witted and surprising script, Kalki shows up to an unassuming high school and shakes things up, roping in two girls — who are named only as "Girl 1" and "Girl 2" in the script, but Kalki refers to them as Meat and Beti/Betty.
"Kalki awakens the confidence in these two young girls," Dinga said. "You've experienced the world and been told all these things about how you're supposed to be and how you're supposed to act, and what the best way forward is — and then it gets to a point where you have to make some mistakes and try things out for yourself."
The play actually begins in a police station, where a somewhat stunned police officer is struggling to interrogate the girls about the inexplicable disappearance of their new friend Kalki.
Desireé Clarke is directing the play, and she's also the brand new executive artistic director at Moxie Theatre — the company's leader. Clarke says the interrogation serves as a framework for the play's mechanics and stitches the story together.
"It follows a very chronological order, and then we flash back to the instances as Girl 1 and Girl 2 bring them up in interrogation," Clarke said. "So what we're doing is utilizing tech elements to flash back for us, and as the play is described as kind of a comic book thriller, we do it in a very animated comic book thriller sort of way. So it's really at times shocking. Sometimes it's really funny."
Clarke said that some of the tech elements include rain, thunder and lightning, as well as effects to bring the setting into and out of flashbacks.
"When you come to see this show, it feels almost like you're watching a cartoon or a Marvel movie or a comic book that's moving live in front of you," Clarke said.
Comic books are more than just an aesthetic. Moxie is partnering with Little Fish Comic Studio and Mysterious Galaxy Books on the show — the cast and crew held "first look" rehearsals and Q&As at the bookstore last month.
Clarke, who is a San Diego-based director, actor and teaching artist officially took over the leadership role this month. The non-profit theater company held a nation-wide search for the position after co-founder Jennifer Eve Thorn announced she'd step aside earlier this year. Starting her time at the helm of the company with "Kalki" is a fitting endeavor, Clarke thinks.
"My hopes and dreams for my role are very much to continue helping Moxie grow and to challenge the way that we view theater," Clarke said. "I think this play in particular is a really good example of the type of theater that I hope to do, which is theater that is challenging to an audience, that is uncomfortable, makes us think, and when we leave the theater, we're thinking about what we just saw, whether it's 'I don't know what I just saw' or if it's "Wow, am I that person that I saw on stage?'"