The Invisible Hand – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

When a play features a series of slamming doors, you might mistakenly believe you are attending a farce. But if the doors are the steel bars of a prison cell, you know quite quickly you are in for an intense and gripping drama. Hartford TheaterWorks, until Saturday, June 23, is reserving a place for you in the cell of one Nicholas Bright, a desperate Eric Bryant, who has been kidnapped in Pakistan by mistake, yet cannot convince his captors to release him. Ayad Akhtar has crafted a frightening trauma that feels all too real in its enactment.

What could be more shocking or scary than a kidnapping, especially in a foreign country where torture is common place and the threat of a beheading all too real? What if your ransom demands are unrealistic at $10,000,000 and the bank you work for refuses to pay? For Nick, these are his realities and he must find a creative solution to save his own life, or he will never see his wife and young son again.

It is useless for Nick to tell his captors, Anand Bhatt’s Dar, Fajer Kaisi’s Bashir and their leader Rajesh Bose, the Iman Saleem, that he is not their intended victim, the bank’s president. The men are not going to let him go. His fate is squarely in his own hands. Fortunately for Nick, he has a great command of investments and strategies and he convinces his captors that he can raise the intended funds himself by manipulating the market. He assures them that futures are the answer and proceeds to teach Bashir all he knows.

The fate of Pakistan is perilous and the Iman may be more likely to satisfy his own needs than those of his people. His actions cause Bashir to question him and an internal conflict ignites, with Nick caught in the middle. Soon the monetary scheme is in jeopardy and Nick’s life becomes even more precarious.

The title of the play comes from the economic theories of Adam Smith that state that self-interest drives the free market like an invisible hand. Here all the players are directly involved in securing Nick’s success.

David Kennedy directs this intense tale that makes you feel like you are in Nick’s cell with him and his captors, and in imminent danger of losing your life.

For tickets ($45-70), call Hartford TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Come be intrigued as Nick juggles potatoes, oranges, wheat, water and sugar to satisfy greed and the monetary madness of his untrustworthy jailers.

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