Lincoln Center Theater
At the Claire Tow
Under the Direction of Andre Bishop and Bernard Gersten
By arrangement with the Araca Group
Presents the Steinberg New Works Program:
By Ayad Akhtar
Heidi Armbruster, Erik Jensen, Aasif Mandvi,
Omar Maskati, Karen Pittman
Claire Tow Theater
Directed by Kimberly Senior
Sets: Lauren Helpern
Costumes: Dane Laffrey
Lighting: Tyler Micoleau
Sound: Jill BC DuBoff
Casting: Caparelliotis Casting
Stage Manager: Megan Schwarz Dickert
Exec. Dir. Dvpt. & Planning: Hattie K. Jutagir
Director of Marketing: Linda Mason Ross
General Press Agent: Philip Rinaldi
General Manager: Adam Siegel
Production Manager: Jeff Hamlin
Artistic Director/LCT3: Paige Evans
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 28, 2012
I arrived at Claire Tow Theater to experience this new, contemporary space, a box theater atop the Vivian Beaumont and Mitzi Newhouse at Lincoln Center Theater. I also came to see one of my favorite late-night faux news comedians, Aasif Mandvi, featured on ďThe Daily ShowĒ. What I wasnít prepared for and what was astounding was the breadth and depth and drama of Ayad Akhtarís new one-act play, Disgraced, that pondered and probed the essence of racial and ethnic identity, the essence of marital cohesion, and the essence of ambition vs. conscience. Four characters, with the help of a fifth, grip the attention and imagination of the audience so deeply, that one attendee actually shouted an epithet, during a late-play revelation. The connection seemed to fuel the actors, who made the most of this intimate theatrical space, with stage and seating almost seamless.
Mr. Mandvi takes on the role of Amir, born Pakistani Muslim, living New York upper east side. Amir sees himself as a rising star attorney in a financial law firm. Amir also sees himself as a born Muslim with a conflicted conscience about Sept. 11 and about the plight of one New York imam. And, Amir is very much in love with his wife, Emily (Heidi Armbruster), a fair-skinned artist, who weaves the design of Muslim art and craft into her paintings. Emily is supportive of Amirís retaining his inherent heritage and had urged him to support the imam, on a day that New York reporters were on the scene and wrote about Amirís court appearance in the Times. Amirís law firm executives did not take kindly to what they saw as politically incorrect for their own religious interests.
Emily is also best friends with Isaac (Erik Jensen), a Jewish art gallery owner and art show curator, who is married to Jory (Karen Pittman), an African American lawyer with Amirís firm, that is, a lawyer without the imam baggage. Thus, some explosive, subsequent revelations unfold at what began as a genteel dinner party in Amir and Emilyís tony dining room. The fifth character is Abe (Omar Maskati), Amirís nephew, who has changed his name as part of his own identity crisis. Amir, Emily, and Abe, by the end of this 90 minute play, have evolved and imploded into changed, re-envisioned personas, mostly for the better, somewhat for the worse, erasing their individual and collective recent past. Jory and Isaac, as well, are fired up from the group encounters.
Disgraced has all the elements of great theater, with sharp wit, intellectual provocation, human pathos, spontaneous revelations, shifting characterizations, and fine directing, thanks to Kimberly Senior. Ayad Akhtar is hopefully working on his next play, as I canít wait to see it. Lauren Helpernís scenic design keeps the eye absorbing it all. Kudos to all.