Disgraced

Theater
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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Disgraced. Lyceum Theatre (see Broadway). By Ayad Akhtar. Directed by Kimberly Senior. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.

Disgraced: In brief

Ayad Akhtar's Pulitzer Prize–winning play will be topical for the foreseeable future: A Pakistani-American lawyer finds that his wife and friends are not as tolerant as he thought. At a dinner party where the chat turns ugly, the characters show their true selves. The cast includes Gretchen Mol, Josh Radnor, Karen Pittman and British actor Hari Dhillon.

Disgraced: Theater review by David Cote

As a friend and I left Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced­—which premiered two years ago, nabbed the Pulitzer Prize and recently moved to Broadway—he mused that you don’t see a lot of in-depth “issue” fare in pop culture. Even Homeland’s ripped-from–Al Jazeera realism is a cover for spy-versus-spy melodrama, and the vast majority of movies favor the tentpole over the bully pulpit. I told him that issue plays are scarce in theater, too, especially on the Great White Way. Maybe that’s why I liked Disgraced more this time around.

In truth, this is a superior production to the one that opened at Lincoln Center in 2012, with a more charismatic cast and a better sense of the rising ideological stakes. In the lead role of proudly assimilated lawyer Amir Kapoor, Hari Dhillon cuts a handsome, graceful figure (different to the simmering suavity of original Amir, Aasif Mandvi). He has an easy chemistry with his pretty wife, Emily (Gretchen Mol), an artist whose recent work is influenced by Islamic ornamentation.

The plot is mainly a vehicle getting its characters to a place where they show the cracks within carefully constructed social attitudes of worldliness or multiculti tolerance—in other words, a dinner party where too many drinks lead to truth-telling. Amir admits to flickers of pride at Islamic terror; pushed too far, Jewish gallerist Isaac (an electric Josh Radnor) calls Amir an animal. Isaac’s African-American wife, Jory (Karen Pittman, chic and sleek), seems casually conservative. Akhtar may not have revolutionary things to say about poorly repressed animosities between East and West, but he says them eloquently and passionately. Now that the context has changed, maybe I’m listening more closely.—Theater review by David Cote

THE BOTTOM LINE A Pulitzer Prize winner scores political points.

Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote

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