Saturday, December 12, 2015

Review: Disgraced at Berkeley Rep

I have been fairly disappointed with the past few productions at Berkeley Rep, so I had fairly low expectations coming into see "Disgraced" - a play I knew very little about.

  • Isaac : J. Anthony Crane
  • Abe : Behzad Dabu
  • Emily: Nisi Sturgis
  • Amir: Bernard White
  • Jory: Zakiya Young
Wikipedia describes it as follows:

Disgraced is a 2012 play by novelist and screenwriter Ayad Akhtar. It premiered in Chicago and has had Off-Broadway and Off West End engagements. The play, which won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama,[1] opened on Broadway at the Lyceum Theater, with previews that began on September 27, 2014.[2]Disgraced has also been recognized with a 2012 Joseph Jefferson Award for New Work – Play or Musical and a 2013 Obie Award for Playwriting. It is Akhtar's first stage play.[3] The 2014 Broadway transfer earned a Tony Award for Best Play nomination in 2015.[4]

The play is centered on sociopolitical themes such as Islamophobia and the self-identity of Muslim-American citizens.[5] It focuses on a dinner party between four people with very different backgrounds. As discussion turns to politics and religion, the mood quickly becomes heated. Described as a "combustible powder keg of identity politics,"[6] the play depicts racial and ethnic prejudices that "secretly persist in even the most progressive cultural circles."[7] It is also said to depict the challenge for upwardly mobile Muslim Americans in the post-9/11 America.[8] 

I thought that the play was very well acted, was thought-provoking, and intellectually stimulating.  I was happy to have seen it.

I really enjoyed how everyone acted but especially Bernard White, playing the lead character Amir.

In the 90-minute,[9] one-act play, lawyer Amir Kapoor and his wife Emily host an Upper East Side dinner. Amir is an American-born, Muslim-raised Manhattan mergers and acquisitions lawyer, while Emily is an up-and-coming artist who focuses on Islamic themes in her art.[8][9] Amir has cast aside his Muslim heritage for the sake of his career, but is at times drawn toward it nonetheless. Emily, who has an affinity for Islamic artistic traditions, serves as his muse and an influence on his Islamic connection.[8] Prior to the dinner, Amir, who is on the partner track, becomes involved in a controversial case. Amir's assimilated nephew, Abe (born Hussein Malik), has concerns regarding the propriety of the arrest of a local imam who is imprisoned on charges that may be trumped-up of financing terrorist-supporting groups,[8] leading him to question whether it is religious persecution.[9] Emily encourages the reluctant Amir to appear in court in support of the imam, in an unofficial capacity that gets mentioned in The New York Times.[9] The case becomes dinner conversation when he hosts Jory, a colleague from work, and her husband, Isaac,[9] who is Emily's Jewish art dealer.[8] In all, the dinner table assembly includes an ex-Muslim, an African-American, a Jew and a WASP dining over the topic of religious faith.[10] The conversation touches upon "Islamic and Judaic tradition, the Quran and the Talmud, racial profiling and September 11 and the Taliban and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Benjamin Netanyahu" as tensions mount