Disgraced the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Ayad Akhtar is an exceptional piece of theatre that makes you think, squirm and become immersed in a story that is beautifully written, produced and directed. It is one of the most produced plays in the wider America over the last few years and with at its essence a story about Islamophobia, compelling in the wider theatre world, where we now so often look for solutions and explanations of current issues.
With an Australian version of an up market upper- East side apartment The Playhouse stage felt spare and sparse, mitigated by a soaring atrium typical of so many New York apartments, but lacking in the accoutrements you’d expect of a successful couple. He is an American born, Muslim raised, mergers and acquisitions lawyer, she an artist focusing on Islamic themes. His nephew brings another element to the story used effectively to question religious allegiances.
The story focuses on a dinner party for four, the kind of dinner party that elicits issues that explode in the face of all of them and fracture the perceived tolerance of this disparate group of friends and colleagues. The combination of a Muslim, WASP, black woman and a Jew, with an infidelity, an appearance by our lawyer in support of an Imam reported in the New York Times, the offer of a partnership in their law firm for the black woman ahead of the better qualified Muslim lawyer are fuel for a simmering of tensions, couched in humour initially, that is used by the playwright to build the tension and make for an unexpected conclusion.
The after party was a buzz of comments and congratulations to the excellent cast, now devoid of their New York accents and admiring of this Canberra audience, but acknowledged for the curtain call speech taking time to encourage our support for the arts in the ‘#istandwiththearts’ campaign by filling in the forms to send to our parliamentarians. We did of course. This kind of theatre a reminder of just how important it is to give our voice to the impact of recent funding cuts to the arts.