America has always been a melting pot. A country not only founded by people who left their homeland in search of a better life, but also a place where people continue to flock to for the same reason. We are unified in that our journey to America was in search of a better life than what the home land could offer. The opportunity to break from the cultural, social, and religious norms expected of us. Cultural and religious clashes have caused strife throughout history, especially in New York City as people from numerous cultures and religions learn to live together in tight quarters as they assimilate to their new home, while not wanting to wash away their ancestral traditions.
In Disgraced, the winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama by Ayad Akhtar, four vastly different viewpoints collide at an Upper East Side dinner party. Amir Kapoor (Bhavesh Patel) is an American-born Muslim, who has abandoned his religion in pursuit of his career as a Manhattan mergers & acquisitions lawyer. His wife Emily (Caroline Kaplan) is an up-and-coming artist who uses Islamic themes in her art. Jory (Austene Van) is Amir’s African-American colleague from work. Her husband is Jewish art dealer Isaac (Kevin Isola), who is also interested in featuring Emily’s work in his next show. A simple celebratory dinner party turns into a battle of wits, religion and politics after Amir has a bad day at work and gets into it with Isaac during cocktails before dinner. Tensions begin to reach a boiling point as the conversation delves deeper and deeper into topics such as Islamic and Judaic tradition, the Quran and the Talmud, racial profiling and September 11 and the Taliban and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Benjamin Netanyahu. While Emily and Jory try defusing the situation they are pulled deeper into the conversation.
The Guthrie’s production of Disgraced is not only very timely and relevant, but also an excellent conversation starter. With everything going on in the world today, this play sparks the conversations and inward reflection need when discussing religion and politics, especially in group settings. Disgraced is a night of theatre, that is not only filled with drama, and thought provoking dialogue, but also a night of laughs.
Disgraced is playing on the Guthrie’s McGuire Proscenium Stage through August 28. For more information on the show, or to purchase tickets visit their website.