Thursday, October 16, 2014

Disgraced (on Broadway) ***

When I saw the production of Ayad Akhtar’s powerful drama at LCT3 two years ago, before it won the Pulitzer Prize, I found it deeply affecting. (For my 4-star review of that version, go to I wondered how it would hold up on second viewing in a much larger theater with a mostly new cast. The answer is that it still packs a wallop, but a slighter lesser one. The intimacy — and menace — of being only a few feet away from the action has been lost and the new cast members are, to my mind, less effective than their predecessors. As Amir, the assimilated Pakistani-American attorney and apostate Muslim, Hari Dhillon was a bit tepid. As Emily, his blonde artist wife with a penchant for Islamic art, Gretchen Mol also seemed a bit weak. Josh Radnor, as Isaac, the Jewish gallery owner who is considering showing her art, fared better. Karen Pittman, the lone holdover, is fine as Jory, Isaac’s African-American wife and Amir’s colleague. Danny Ashok, as Amir’s devout nephew Abe (f/k/a Hussein), was a bid broad. When Emily and Abe browbeat Amir into attending a hearing for an imprisoned imam, Amir’s carefully constructed world begins to collapse. The play’s commentary on religious and ethnic tensions in today’s America holds up very well. I had forgotten how many laughs the play has. The ending still seemed weak. Perhaps because the surprise element was gone for me the second time around, the play’s schematic structure seemed more apparent. John Lee Beatty must have been having an off day when he designed the set — the furnishings are quite unattractive and not at all what you would expect this couple to have. Lauren Helpern’s lovely set at LCT3 was far more apt. Jennifer von Mayrhauser’s costumes are fine — Jory’s killer heels fit her to a tee. Kimberly Senior’s direction is strong. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes; no intermission.

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