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Review: Rooting for 'A Nice Indian Boy' at East West Players

“Modern Family” goes Bollywood in “A Nice Indian Boy,” now receiving a stalwart premiere at East West Players. Although Madhuri Shekar’s same-sex variant on the time-honored culture-clash comedy has its unfinished aspects, it’s pleasantly funny entertainment.

Transpiring in the Bay Area, “Indian Boy” establishes its premise immediately.  While praying at the Livermore Hindu Temple, Naveen (Andy Gala) and Keshav (Christian Durso) catch each other’s eye. Thereafter, they’re living together and planning their nuptials.

Complications come from Naveen’s doing-their-best parents (an assured Anjul Nigam and the scene-stealing Rachna Khatau), first observed watching “Milk” on DVD. Then there’s Arundhathi (the acerbic Mouzam Makkar), Naveen’s traditionally married sister, who descends from Manhattan with some unsettling news of her own.

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Most critically, Keshav, the adopted child of Indian parents, is far more devoutly Hindu than modernized Naveen, not to mention Caucasian. Multiple reversed-viewpoint face-offs ensue.

Smartly directed by Snehal Desai, shrewdly designed and played by a charming cast, “Indian Boy's” biggest laughs come from Khatau’s spot-on timing and Durso’s loopy enthusiasm. Although his and Gala’s chemistry takes awhile to develop, we root for them, and Nigam and Makkar each have their potent sequences.

However, some rethinks are needed to bring “Indian Boy” beyond expanded sitcom episode.  Much is said rather than shown, and neither the sociopolitical aspects nor Keshav’s intriguing back story feel fully developed.

The lovers’ rapid early progress and Arundhathi’s unseen plot-device husband suggest that a sixth role and two-act structure might benefit this good-natured crowd-pleaser. Yet more than one local demographic will devour it like homemade palak paneer.

“A Nice Indian Boy,” David Henry Hwang Theater, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. End March 23. $25-$36. (213) 625-7000 or www.eastwestplayers.org. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

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