Monday, November 16, 2015

theatre review - DISGRACED - Arizona Theatre Company - November 14, 2015

Elijah Alexander, Allison Jean White, Richard Baird and Nicole Lewis
Photo by Tim Fuller
Click here for more information on this production that runs through November 29th.

"It isn't often that world events explicitly impact the timing of a theatre production, but that happened this weekend with the opening of Arizona Theatre Company's production of Ayad Akhtar's Disgraced. Opening the night after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, the topic of Akhtar's 2013 Pulitzer Prize winning play, in its Arizona premiere at ATC, had even more relevance since the play deals with the preconceived notions that many have of Muslims being tied to terrorism. While ISIS isn't specifically mentioned in the piece, the threat of the next major terrorist attack is, along with how the misunderstanding of the Islamic religion is being used to spread incorrect facts. But Muslims aren't the only ones on the hot seat as Akhtar also interweaves the play with the racial and ethnic prejudices that many believe. Akhtar's play is an exceptionally well crafted and explosive expose of the beliefs that many people harbor, concerning religion and politics, but don't often speak out loud, and this production has a firecracker cast, smart direction, and superb creative aspects, resulting in a not to be missed event.....Akhtar's dialogue is smart, with realistic characters and truthful relationships, and the entire play is engaging. While a couple of the plot points are slightly forced and the ending could be more focused, he does raise many valid questions. Can a person turn against the way he was raised and the beliefs he was taught by his family and his religion? Or do those thoughts never truly go away but continue to linger and gnaw away at the person?...Even the title of the play provokes questions. Are Amir and the other characters the ones who feel disgraced by their thoughts and the events that their beliefs provoke, or are we the ones who should feel disgraced by how the play makes us question the beliefs and feelings about others that we have tried to bury deep inside? ...Director David Ira Goldstein skillfully directs the production to keep the tension ever rising but also allowing Akhtar's many very funny moments to come through in a realistic manner, while ensuring that the serious topics that arise never take a back seat. He also has cast the play with an exceptional group of actors, all able to portray their characters and the relationships they have with each other realistically. ...Disgraced is a humorous and harrowing, smart and brutal drama that is ultimately about how no one and nothing is quite what it seems. But it also shows that when confronted, the truth of what people believe comes out and we clearly see how they really feel. Arizona Theatre Company's production of this Pulitzer Price winning play is exceptionally well cast, designed, and directed and results in great theater with plenty of food for thought."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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