Ayad Akhtar’s “Disgraced” at Long Wharf through November 8

 By Tom Nissley

There is a beautifully woven tapestry of a play at Long Wharf this month. Ayad Akhtar’s “Disgraced” tells the story of an American-born quasi-Muslim intellectual, Amir (Rajesh Bose) and his artist wife, Emily (Nicole Lowrance). Amir is a talented lawyer working his way up the chairs at a prestigious law firm. When his nephew, Abe (Mohit Gautam), who has become much more proud of Islam than Amir, asks Amir to represent a friendly Imam who may have been profiled into a trial, Amir reluctantly agrees to consult but not represent him. The NYTimes mentions his support of the Imam, and then Amir’s superiors question his personnel file, in which he claims to have come from India and does not mention a more accurate reference to Pakistan.

Emily is an artist who is aware and deeply impressed by the Arab heritage that has impacted all of civilization as we know it. Creation of paper, creation of alphabet, perspective and dimension in art, for instance. Her art reflects this and she has been helped by a Jewish agent, Isaac (the delightful Benim Foster), who not only admires her art and her zeal for Arab history, but also Emily as a woman with whom he’s willing to be intimate. They have a chance to act on that during a trip to a museum conference in London. And of course keep it a secret.

Isaac’s wife, Jory (Shirine Babb) is a black Christian lawyer who works with Amir in the same law firm. When the two couples are together for a dinner party the mix of ethnic backgrounds is startling. And explosive. As he learns that Jory will become a partner in the firm, and that Emily and Isaac coupled in London, Amir is at first very angry at others and then in a deep and slow burn at himself. Mr. Bose deserves a special award for sinking so magnificently into personal despair, which is where we last see him when the play, which otherwise is an ensemble production, ends. The writing, the direction (Gordon Edelstein), and a superb technical management of set (Lee Savage), lighting (Eric Southern) and sound (David Van Tieghem), along with Ilona Somogyi’s costumes, make this a very special event.

See and admire it if you can. Tickets and information are available at 203-787-4282 or www.longwharf.org

 

 

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