February 6, 2017 was opening night for the Maltz Jupiter production of Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Disgraced,” by novelist and screenwriter, Ayed Akhtar. The play runs through February 26 and is selling out quickly. Tickets start at $56 and are available at the box office at (561) 575-2223 or online at www.jupitertheatre.org.
This play is dense with subtleties and stereotypes. It is difficult to review a work like this without spoiling some of its ah hah moments or drawing readers’ attentions to one point and distracting from another that might have had greater impact for that theatre goer.
So I shall do my best to avoid as many spoil spots as possible and urge readers to get to the Maltz and see for themselves.
Is it love or is it a fascination with “the other”? Emily (Vanessa Morosco) is a Caucasian female artist in the man’s world of art. She is married to a South Asian man, Amir (Fajer Kaisi). Emily is fascinated with early Muslim art and its influence on modern Western trends. Amir is a successful lawyer expecting to be made a partner in his firm.
Both are aware of being surrounded by Islamophobia and prejudice but from their individual positions as victim and observer.
Jory (Chantal Jean-Pierre) is an African American woman who works in the same law firm as Amir. It’s evident that Amir is driven to succeed with long hours and dedication while Jory seems to succeed despite a more laid back approach.
Jory is married to Isaac (Joel Reuben Ganz), a non-observant Jewish gallery owner who invites Emily to show her Islamic-influenced art work in a new show he is mounting. Despite their heritages and society’s deep-seated prejudices, the four characters skim across the seas of bigotry buffered by financial success and upward mobility.
And then there’s Abe (Eddie Morales) Amir’s 20-something nephew who at the beginning of the play has legally changed his name from Hussein to Abe in order to fit in better, which he says is working. Despite outwardly eschewing his heritage he has taken up the cause of local imam who is in jail on suspicion of terrorist activity.
He asks his uncle to help, getting support from Emily who plays down the risks. Amir finally agrees. His connection with the imam made the papers and guess what happened next.
The stage is set for an alcohol-fueled knock-down-drag-out donnybrook (an Irish term). When that blows out and the characters start to pick up the pieces, Abe returns seeking his uncle’s help for himself having been arrested on suspicion of terrorism. Abe has swapped his baseball cap for a kufi cap often worn by Muslim men. And so the cycle continues from generation to generation.
The play had its world premiere in January 2012 in Chicago and opened on Broadway in 2014, winning a Tony nomination. In 2016 it became one of the most produced plays across the nation.
The Maltz production was directed by Carbonell winner J. Barry Lewis with the usual incredible support staff doing lights and staging, scenic design, costumes and more.
After the curtain went down, Andrew Kato, Producing Artistic Director/Chief Executive, joined by director J. Barry Lewis and well known Post writer Leslie Gray Streeter, held a conversation with the audience to discuss their reactions to the play.