Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Amir (Rajesh Bose) is a New York City attorney who specializes in mergers and acquisitions. He is Muslim and his blonde, fair wife Emily (Nicole Lowrance) is very much American; she is an artist who, as the play opens, works on a portrait of her husband. A painted canvas by Velasquez of his emancipated slave faces the audience. This has spurred Emily forward with her work. Amir had gone to see an imam, a man who is now held for possibly raising money for Taliban. Amir and Emily live is a swanky, chic apartment and are visited by Abe (Mohit Gautam), Amir's nephew. Abe's name used to be Hussein, while Amir has taken on Kapoor as his own name so that he will be viewed as Indian instead of Pakistani. Abe hopes that Amir will represent the imam. Amir, paranoid, frets that negative publicity could virtually cost him everything. He does attend a hearing and is then thought (through a newspaper article) to be assisting in the defense.
A painting of Emily's has been chosen to be exhibited through Isaac (Benim Foster), who is a curator of artworks. He, a Jew, happens to be married to African-American Jory (Shirine Babb), a lawyer colleague of Amir's. Emily and Amir, tense, high-strung, and not separated from his faith, have invited Jory and Isaac to dinner and, for a short time, the conversation is peaceful. It begins as a sweet, charming, graceful gathering. That does not hold and, instead, as secretive behavior and events are unveiled, the production's violent moment, a stunner, changes everything.
Amir is caught: he loves Emily and, as he seeks to gain fortune, might relinquish his moral center. He attempts to find a balance but is perpetually in conflict as he seeks to figure out the worth of his background, his marriage, his ideals and aspirations. Bose, in the lead, is adept. His credibility is in question, at times, and the actor escalates according the script's requirements. This is real but excessive, too, as Bose pushes hard with his character. It is clear that Amir does not like himself; and it is difficult to sympathize with him. He feels assaulted and brings a portion of this upon himself. All of it, including the violent scene, is, no doubt, carefully plotted by the impressive playwright, Akhtar.
Lowrance, recently seen at Westport Country Playhouse, presents Emily as a woman who is not just what she seems, on the surface, to be. The early going finds her to be committed to both her work and her husband. She is far more than a young married who is only physically attractive. Foster and Babb, playing the visiting couple, are both specific and disciplined. Each has a pivotal role and each is convincing. Gautam, making his professional stage debut, is quite effective with his difficult role.
This play was awarded the Pulitzer Prize a few years ago and it surely holds interestnever a dull sequence. Akhtar's dialogue is swift, precise, and moving. His themes are extensive and include ethnicity, religion, assimilation, and also the value of marriage. The character of Amir is sometimes just too, too much. He is ensnared by his flawed decision-making and one realizes that the protagonist is haunted by both past and present.
Gordon Edelstein, directing, aggressively coaxes the production forward and it is highly fueled from start to finish. Lee Savage's set design is terrifically specific as it includes, within a smallish space, a kitchen, and a couple of living areas. The accouterments are perfect.
Disgraced continues at Long Wharf Theatre, in New Haven, Connecticut, through November 8th, 2015. For tickets, call (203) 787-4282 or visit www.longwharf.org.