Friday September 22nd 2017

“Disgraced”

Recommended***Since 9-11, there have been many movies and plays dealing with the Muslim Community and how they are now looked at in a different light. In American Theater Company’s new production, a World Premiere, “Disgraced”, we see another side of the inner feelings of a Muslim man. This 65 minute drama, written by Ayad Akhtar, we meet an up and coming Attorney, Amir ( a solid and strong performance by Usman Ally) who has become more American than many Americans and has given up his cultural roots. He is a high powered negotiator at his firm, handling mergers and acquisitions. His wife, Emily (deftly handled by Lee Stark) is an artists and a White American girl. The live in a beautiful apartments and appear to have “made it”. Amir has a nephew Abe, who is in reality named Hussein(Behzad Dabu) and still believes in his tradition. Abe has a friend that has been arrested for asking for money and is being watched by the FBI as a possible terrorist and Abe has asked his uncle Amir to help him.

Amir and Emily seem to have it all and Amir is hopeful that he will soon become a partner in the firm he works for. While all appears rosy, he has a confrontation with one of the firm partners and finds himself far below the standard he has set for himself. Their friends arrive for a dinner party, on this his worst day and during the course of this evening, Amir finds out that Jory ( Alana Arenas) also employed at the same firm has been offered the partnership he felt was his. Jory is an African American female who has not been at the firm as long as he has, but she tells him that the partners fear he cannot be trusted due to his arrogant nature.

At the same time, on the same evening, he also finds out, as does Jory, that her husband Isaac ( Benim Foster, who makes the best of a character not fully developed by the playwright) has had an affair with Emily.Isaac is an art museum curator who has given Emily space at his gallery for a show and one cannot tell for sure if she slept with him to reach this goal or if it was because Amir placed her on a pedestal, making her an Icon, another goal set and achieved. All hell breaks out with talk of race,religion and all other prejudices. Amir throws his guests out and beats Emily up and the first scene closes.

As the second scene opens, the apartments looks unlived in with all the furniture covered in sheets and Amir living there, but alone. Emily has left him, he has lost his job and during this time, his dignity as well. Did all of this happen because Amir wanted to fit in, or is Akhtar showing us that there are fears that we all have in our lives. In particular the fear of that which is unfamiliar to us. Many of us grew up with certain prejudices that were learned, not from experience, but from what our parents told us. Neighborhoods were more ethnic than today as people “stuck to their own”, mostly due to fear of the unknown.

In this story, we have a Muslim married to a White girl and their best friends are an African American married to a Jewish White man. While all seems good between them, there are the underlying feelings that they have ,which come out when the pressure of the evening’s events brings their true feelings to a boiling point.

Skillfully directed by Kimberly Senior on a set that I found astonishing for one of our smaller theater companies ( Jack Magaw does terrific work) , lighting (Christine Binder),sound (Kevin O’Donnell) and costumes by Janice Pytel) and  props by Nick Heggestad, I found this story to be a little incomplete and had hoped for a better ending, one where the resolution is clearer. While well acted ,  I would have hoped that we would know if they could get back together, could Amir really change his ways?  Does Abe/Hussein give in to the FBI , or get deported and return to Pakistan? While I can recommend the show based on the powerful acting and direction and the overall picture it paints, I felt the need for more- to complete the picture!

“Disgraced” will continue at ATC, located at 1909 West Byron ( at Lincoln Avenue) through February 26th with performances as follows:

Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets range from $35-$40 and as in the past, they do have some Rush tickets ( subject to availability) on day of performances. To place your order, you can stop by the box office, call 773-409-4125 or visit www.atcweb.org

There is some street parking in the neighborhood and metered parking on Lincoln Avenue.Plenty of spots to grab a bite in the area as well and since the play is only 65 minutes, you won’t have to rush for a before or after bite to eat.

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