Wednesday, October 7, 2015

GableStage: Disgraced (reviews)

GablestageDisgracedGableStage opened its production of Disgraced at the Biltmore Hotel on October 3, 2015.
New York.  Today.  Four friends get together for cocktails and dinner at the apartment of a successful corporate lawyer who has turned his back on the Muslim faith of his parents.  Relationships and beliefs about race and identity are questioned — as the dinner party explodes into professional and personal betrayals.
Joseph Adler directed a cast that featured Armando Acevedo, Angel Dominguez, Betsy Graver, Karen Stephens and Gregg Weiner.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Awash in issues of Arab-American assimilation and Anglo antipathy, Disgraced is the classic contemporary example of the topical, thought-provoking drama that forces you to revalidate, even reexamine your perception of the tumult around us...  GableStage gives it a solid iteration that will have many audience members rethinking some core assumptions.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the script is how the four major characters begin espousing and pursuing one point of view, but who end up in a much different place – sometimes simply revealing their true feelings and sometimes because of revelations that are a surprise to them as well.
This was the first major play script for Akhtar, whose career had been primarily as a novelist. Some observers have criticized the evolving plot as quite schematic and mechanical. But as naturalistic as the play is, it’s still theater with such tropes expected to be accepted. Regardless, the concepts and emotions swirling about are compelling. Akhtar has constructed a Rolex-running piece that deftly sets up a situation and then follows it fearlessly to its logical if catastrophic conclusion.
The performances under Adler’s direction are nearly flawless. Acevedo, with his chiseled jaw and piercing eyes, seems like a handsome hard-charging Wall Street type indistinguishable from a thousand others except for a darker skin tone. Acevedo’s Amir exudes a smile that seems cordial. But even in the beginning you may detect the slightest bit of anxiety of someone struggling with something. He exudes a hard-won dignity that he is secretly aware is fragile and vulnerable.
Graver… is perfectly cast as the generous-hearted and highly intelligent artist Emily. When Emily holds forth on the glories of the Arabic culture or the complex virtues of her own paintings, Graver’s passionate delivery makes it totally believable. Graver also makes Emily the most emotionally honest character and the one we immediately bond with.
Stephens… gives another fine gem of a performance of an assured intelligent flinty achiever who is comfortable with a success that she, too, has earned.  Just as fascinating is watching Weiner persuasively depict the supposedly enlightened and broad-minded Isaac slowly revealing the pent-up paranoia, resentment and anger that still simmers in even the most bleeding heart liberal since the Twin Towers fell.
Chuck Strouse reviewed for The Miami New Times:
The War on Terror is now older than most middle-schoolers, yet it seems that nobody gets it. Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn't. Bashar El Asad doesn't. And the U.S. military, which this past weekend bombed a hospital in Afghanistan most certainly doesn't know what the hell is happening.
Therein lies the value of GableStage's Disgraced. The play, which opened last week, explores Islamophobia from a lot of perspectives — that of a self-loathing Muslim, a Jew, and even an artist infatuated with the culture. It mixes in some smart New York talk on the subject, an affair and some wife beating, and much more to come up with a powerful and enlightening performance.
The best thing about this show is the Pulitzer Prize-winning script by Ayad Akhtar… This script, in Joe Adler's adept hands, is fast-paced, smart, and keeps you constantly thinking on a variety of dimensions about how and why the actors say what they do. There is very little ac-ton here, so it's all about the dialogue — which scores big points.
Among the actors, Graver is the strongest, her character's prodigious ego subtly unfolding in fascinating ways. Acevedo was handed a difficult task in depicting Amir, who has lied on his job application and worked his ass off at a New York law firm only to run into not only his bosses' suspicion of his religion and his own questionable judgment.
Weiner is also very good, if somewhat miscast in his role as an art dealer. And Stephen is nearly perfect in her role as a lawyer and the only really sensible one in the play.
Connie Ogle wrote for The Miami Herald:
Disgraced won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2013 — and its success is no mystery. With a terrific cast and impeccable timing, GableStage’s version, directed by Joseph Adler, is riveting and incisive, inciting laughter and gasps in equal measure… A brisk pace is vital, and Adler’s production is lively and electric as it steams inevitably toward that final explosive evening of social, emotional and cultural chaos.
The cast is impressive, with Weiner getting much-needed laughs as the tension builds and Acevedo pulling off the seemingly impossible trick of making Amir’s struggles universal. His plight is specific to modern Muslim Americans, but Disgraced also captures the death grip our upbringings have on us. There’s something in Amir’s defiance that rings bitterly, painfully true, no matter who you are or where you’re from.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
Fascinating at times, with an instant of surprising brutality, Disgraced is well acted by an excellent cast under Joe Adler's direction but this does little to hide the sense that the story is preordained. Hints are dropped, results are not unexpected. After lights up, no one rushes into the night shouting Huzzah. But it is a vital piece. You will talk about it on the long drive home.
GableStage presents its production of Disgraced at the Biltmore Hotel through November 1, 2015.

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