|L-R: Hari Dhillon, Emily Swallow, Karen Pittman |
and J Anthony Crane-Photos by Craig Schwartz
In playwright Ayad Akhtar’s blistering comedy, “Disgraced” the playwright explores the dark underbelly of the politically correct subject matter of anti-semitism and Islamophobia that is simmering just beneath the surface at first only to boil over later on, dragging its five characters into open verbal warfare. “Disgraced”, directed by journeywoman (see; politically correct) director Kimberly Senior, first premiered in 2011 in Chicago, then transferred to New York’s Lincoln Center, then onto Broadway capturing a Pulitzer Prize for Akhtar and a Tony nomination for director Senior in the process.
The play written in 2012 is eerily prescient for events unfolding in 2016. The action is set in New York City during 2011 and 2012 takes place over a nine month period.
|Hari Dhillon and Emily Swallow|
Photo by Craig Schwartz
At a hosted dinner party for friends Issac (J. Anthony Crane) a curator friend of Emily and Amir – has more than a business interest in Emily – and his wife Jory (Karen Pittman) who works at the same law firm as Amir settle in for an evening of cocktails, pleasantries and a delicious dinner prepared by Emily. After consuming too much alcohol the conversation turns to office business talk and then to the hot button issues of the day: politics, religion, and whatever other alcohol-fueled deep feelings held by all, begin to surface during the inevitable moments of truth.
Amir, a self-proclaimed apostate from Islam makes a case for secularism saying” The Koran is like one long hate-mail letter to humanity”. Which prompts Isaac to calm the waters with a sincere assessment saying “Islam is rich and universal (as viewed through his curator lenses), part of a spiritual heritage we can all draw from.” Amir then admits “… to having felt some pride on September 11th.” Which produces gasps from the audience. Now the stage is set for the infidelity slings and arrows when Amir and Jory returning from an errand, find Isaac and Emily in a close encounter.
The play may be full of predictable clichés and the direction of the story, but no one can deny the talent and solid performances of the actors working on the stage. Sometimes the situations get overcooked with everyone yelling. But, after all there are a lot of truths being hurled all about, with each character making a case for his or her position.
|Behzad Dabu- Photo by Craig Schwartz|
In the technical department, director Senior leads her creative team headed by Scenic Designer John Lee Beatty who fashions an attractive one-set New York City apartment, with costumes designed by Jennifer Von Mayrhauser, Light Design by Christine A. Binder, and Sound design by Jill BC Du Boff. The Fight Direction choreographed by Unkledave’s Fight House, is one of the best fight design efforts is so authentically executed, I had some concern for Ms. Swallow’s safety. But, of course, I shouldn’t have worried.
“Disgraced” is a powerful play that delivers a potent message, yet is funny and enjoyable at the same time. It is performed without an intermission at the Mark Taper Forum through July 17, 2016.