Pulitzer prize-winning Disgraced sheds light on what it is like to be a Muslim-American post 9/11.
The beautiful Maltz Jupiter Theatre has, once again, produced a masterpiece in Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar. With only 5 actors and 4 scenes (with no intermission), this play will make you rethink everything you believe about the Islamic faith and those who identify as Muslim.
The dialogue is heavy, but in the best way. Conversation between these five well-developed characters is deep and even harsh at some points. Please note that there will be adult language. You will see racism at its worst, but it will bring out your best by causing you to internally examine any prejudices you may have.
Nominated for an astonishing 18 Carbonell awards, The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is sure to earn a few more with Disgraced. Director J. Barry Lewis leads a perfectly-picked cast of Fajer Kaisi who plays Amir; Vanessa Morosco who plays Amir’s wife Emily; Joel Reuben Ganz playing Isaac; Chantal Jean-Pierre who plays Isaac’s wife Jory; and South Florida’s own Eddie Morales who plays Amir’s nephew, Abe. Casting director, Stephanie Yankwitt could not have chosen better players to fulfill these demanding roles.
The sole setting is a light-filled, spacious apartment belonging to Emily & Amir Kapoor on New York’s Upper East Side. Scenic designer Anne Mundell did a fantastic job of creating a space that belies the home of both an artist and an up-and-coming lawyer. Without giving away too much, I must mention fight director Lee Soroko as this play displays not only verbal conflict, but one key scene containing physical violence that was perfectly credible thanks to him.
In the first scene, we see a couple clearly in love. Amir and Emily Kapoor are young and ambitious New Yorkers fulfilling their roles to the best of their ability. It is made very clear that Amir has some self-identity issues. When Amir’s nephew, Abe, comes over pleading for Amir to help support a local imam who Abe feels is unlawfully imprisoned, we see Amir’s reluctance. This is a foreshadowing of what ultimately leads to Amir’s tragic fall.
Later in the 90-minute production, we find Amir and Emily hosting a dinner for Jory (Amir’s colleague at his law firm; a successful lawyer who is also an African-American woman) and her husband Isaac (Emily’s Jewish art dealer). The dinner quickly turns sour when religion becomes the main topic of conversation. It gets worse when infidelities and prejudices are discovered. We see each character turn into their stereotype. Ultimately, Amir becomes the backward, tribal man he has been running away from.
In the end, we are left with two broken characters. The residual emotions that we are feeling are welcomed into discussion with a theatre-hosted invitation to “Continue the Conversation.” This was a unique experience to share with both theatre staff and the entire audience just how you feel about the controversial topics that Disgraced lays at our feet.
Come out and continue the conversation yourself. You must see this provocative drama playing at The Maltz Jupiter through February 26th. It may just change your point of view. In the words of director J. Barry Lewis, “Disgraced is a play about our times, for our times.”