“Disgraced” — A Topical Play Galvanizes Broadway

From left: Hari Dhillon, Karen Pittman, Josh Radnor and Gretchen Mol

Excerpts from the review by Charles Isherwood in The New York Times, October 23, 2014

Ayad Akhtar’s play, which was first seen in New York in 2012 and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, has come roaring back to life on Broadway in a first-rate production directed by Kimberly Senior that features an almost entirely new cast. In the years since it was first produced here, the play’s exploration of the conflicts between modern culture and Islamic faith, as embodied by the complicated man at its center – a Pakistani-born, thoroughly assimilated New Yorker – have become ever more pertinent. The rise of the so-called Islamic State, and the news that radicalized Muslims from Europe and the United States have joined the conflict raging in Syria and Iraq, brings an even keener edge to Mr. Akhtar’s engrossing drama….

Amir, who has been unsettled by a recent conversation at work about his background – inspired, he suspects, by a newspaper article referring to his support for the imam – bridles when Isaac begins to opine about the difference between Islam and “Islamo-fascism.” Amir scorns the distinction, describing the Quran as “one very long hate mail letter to humanity.”

As much as Disgraced is a play about the potential tensions between old faiths and the modern world, it also dramatizes the complexity of identity, the interior tug of war between the culture into which people are born and the culture they claim as their own. For all its heady talk, the play’s most moving moment for me was a silent one, as Amir contemplates Emily’s portrait of him. You sense that he’s looking beyond the painting into his soul’s opaque depths, and feeling anguish and confusion at what he sees.


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