Tucked near the Golden Gate Ferry terminal at the Embarcadero, presiding over the weekend Farmer’s Market, strides a bronze statue of Gandhi. It clutches a staff in one hand, and raises the other in a peaceful gesture. “My Life is My Message,” reads the inscription on the base.
You might not have known the statue even existed before seeing local playwright Anne Galjour’s newest work #GetGandhi, which runs through Aug. 26 at Z Below. But afterward, you might feel the need to go see it for yourself—if only to check if it’s still there.
Directed with gusto by Nancy Carlin—who, with Galjour, plus actors Jeri Lynn Cohen and Patricia Silver, make up the newly formed Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits Theatre Collective—#GetGandhi views the mythology of the Mahatma through a #MeToo lens, and finds him disappointingly wanting. So much so, in fact, that aging yoga instructor Helen (played by Cohen) and her academic, first-wave feminist friend Miriam (played by Silver) hatch a plot to knock the statue from its pedestal, simultaneously knocking down the myth of Gandhi.
At the core of their censure is Gandhi’s controversial habit of practicing celibacy, or brahmacharya, by asking female followers, even his grand-niece Manu, to sleep naked by his side. While Miriam, Helen and their millennial counterpart Maya (Miranda Swain) may bicker about semantics (are these actions severe enough to label Gandhi a rapist, or merely a “bad man?”), they eventually come to a consensus around the necessity of removing the statue. The only obstacle being: how?
On the surface, #GetGandhi could be classified as a madcap, low-stakes crime caper. With Miriam as ringleader, and Helen’s baffled family members as foils—her laid-back, NorCal husband Bob (Howard Swain) and exasperated Republican daughter Rebecca (Lyndsy Kail)—Galjour frequently uses her characters to articulate the messaging and inevitable branching out of feminist theory. She underscores the rhetorical and generational divides between acerbic bra-burning Miriam and her feisty acolyte Maya—who loves her hero sincerely, but is not afraid to push back against what she considers outdated mores and attitudes.