A Play to Remember
By Saboohi Ahmed
This is a difficult time to be a Muslim in the United States and there is no better lens to view the world than through Ayad Akhtar’s play that is currently playing at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.
Akhtar wrote “Disgraced” in 2012 and won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2013 which is one of the highest awards that a writer can aspire to in the United States and as the performance at the Mark Taper demonstrates the award and accolades are well deserved.
The story line is controversial and riveting. The protagonist (or hero) is a 40 something Pakistani American called Amir who has changed his last name from Abdullah to Kapoor. He is climbing the corporate ladder as a mergers and acquisitions attorney at a prestigious New York City law firm. He has a beautiful blonde wife who is an artist and Amir appears to be on the cusp of making partner in the law firm where he has tirelessly toiled for many years. Just as he is about to make good on the American dream, his world begins to unravel. A brief encounter with a Muslim cleric in prison on terrorism charges lays bare his deception to the world. What follows is as fine a piece of theater as anyone has the opportunity of seeing.
The role of Amir is played by Hari Dhillon who is Sikh American and in the question-answer session after the performance he gave us an insight as to the conflicted relationship Sikhs have had with Muslims over the centuries. His wife is played by the lovely Emily Swallow, a beautiful, if naïve, person who sees the best in everyone and cannot comprehend why Amir has decided to submerge his Muslim identity. As Amir’s deception begins to unravel she is finally confronted with the ugliness of prejudice that she never before realized existed. The diverse cast is rounded off by Issac who plays the role of a Jewish art promoter and his wife Jorey who plays an African American attorney who is Amir’s colleague. The twists and turns of their relationship with Amir and Emily bring out many aspects of the diversity of the United States and the varying roles that each ethnic group plays in this mix.
This is must see theater for all of us, whatever our ethnic or religious backgrounds.
The amazing writing of Ayad Akhtar and the brilliant acting of Dhillon, Swallow, Pittman, Crane and Dabu are well worth the trip to downtown Los Angeles. Go to https://www.centertheatregroup.org/.../ mark- taper- forum/.../ disgraced for more information.