Today I had the pleasure of reviewing a stage play called “Disgraced”. This was a rarity for me in that normally I have some degree of knowledge about the performance I’m going to see. Normally, I would have heard or read something in advance about the performance; but not today. Today my mind was a blank canvas — no knowledge of, or research done prior to attending the performance.
Because there was no research done on the show prior to viewing the performance, there was no preconceived level of expectation — high or low. What I witnessed on stage today at The Alliance Theater totally blew my mind.
The screenplay written by Milwaukee raised Ayad Akhtar, 45, tells the story of mergers & acquisitions lawyer Amir Kapoor (Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte) and his wife, Emily (Courtney Patterson), who live amid the trappings of his success on New York’s Upper East Side. Emily is an up-and-coming artist whose interest in Islamic artistic tradition and themes is beginning to fuel the direction of her paintings. Amir is a Pakistani-American who has broken with his Muslim upbringing. Amir’s nephew, Abe (born Hussein Malik, and played by Ali Sohaili), asks Amir for legal help aiding a local imam facing charges of financing terrorist-supporting groups, who Abe feels to be the victim of injustice. At Emily’s urging, Amir lends minimal and reluctant assistance in an unofficial capacity but is still pictured with the imam’s legal team in The New York Times. The stresses in Amir’s life bubble to a head at a dinner party with his legal colleague Jory (Tinashe Kajese-Bolden) and her husband, Isaac (a curator interested in Emily’s work and played by Andrew Benator) with devastating consequences. The play is set in 2011, in the Kapoor’s Upper East Side apartment in New York and is wonderfully directed by Susan Booth.
“Disgraced” has all the trappings — couples living the high life in Manhattan, racial, religious, and cultural prejudice, as well as marital infidelity. The cast also wrestles with many of the world problems that we face today — especially when it comes to the challenges in the Middle East and overall Jewish-Arab relationships. “Disgraced” takes the audience on a cultural rollercoaster ride that will have audiences having serious conversations amongst themselves as it relates to prejudice, the world we live in today, and what the future might hold for all of us.
I think the finest accolade a performance like this can receive is to have the audience / attendees to be engulfed in conversation at the end of the performance. It was interesting to watch people after the play was over. As I stood waiting for my ride to pull to the front of the theater, it was interesting to watch the amount of post-performance chatter that was occurring with people as they were exiting; you could just see people engulfed in deep thought and conversation, visibly moved by what they had witnessed on stage during the previous hour.
The Peach Review gives “Disgraced” a solid 10 on a 1-10 scale. Would give it more if possible. It’s a must-see.
“Disgraced” is scheduled to run through February 14th at The Alliance Theater, part of The Woodruff Art Center.