East/West thriller weaves clashing cultures with finance, greed, intrigue

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KC Rep debut of “The Invisible Hand” brought audiences to their feet as the curtain call began after witnessing an intense thriller that Artistic Director, Eric Rosen announced was vying for the Evening Standard Award in London for Best Play.

Directed by Jerry Genochio and written by Ayad Akhtar, “The Invisible Hand” takes place in Pakistan where high level captives are considered “cash cows” and are held for ransom. Unfortunately, this hostage, Nick Bright, is not a high level hostage, and his fate hangs in the balance.

“In ‘The Invisible Hand,’ an American banker is taken hostage in Pakistan by captors seeking a ransom – but instead of capturing a high-level executive, they mistakenly take Nick Bright, a mid-level trader for whom his country and company will not negotiate,” KC Rep said. “The three captors and their hostage strike a deal: Nick can save his own life if he can earn his ransom through stock market trades. This intense thriller reveals the complicated truth behind our simple perceptions of good versus evil and East versus West, as we discover that the invisible hand that moves the global market is more easily manipulated than Nick’s captors believe.”

At the curtain speech prior to the play, Rosen was extremely excited for the audience to experience this piece. The anticipation could be heard in his voice as he prepared the audience for the opening scene, a prison-like room with the main character handcuffed and fearful of his fate.

The play involves four persons, with central character Nick Bright, portrayed by Jason Chanos, on stage for the entire performance. Nick understands the gravity of his situation and knows that his chances of freedom remain slim. Even after he strikes a deal with hic captors, his freedom rests on his ability to create wealth with his knowledge of financial markets, trading, and market trends. Even with success, his fate remains in peril. His three tormentors keep alternating from friend to foe and switching back and forth with the snap of a finger or utterance of renegotiating a new bargain for his release.

Four talented actors created complex character with multi-layers in this drama set somewhere in the near future in Pakistan. The cast is: Neal Gupta as Dar, Jason Chanos as Nick Bright, Andrew Guilarte as Bashir, and Rock Kohli as Iman Saleem. Not enough can be said of their presentation of their characters and the rapid-fire changes from ally to foe and back. Their stage presence commands the audience to keep their eyes focused on the action and tune in to the dialogue for fear of missing even one line.

Chanos and Guilarte share the most challenging encounters as their relationship slowly grows and changes several times in the play. They possess a chemistry in their scense that is volatile, yet anticipated to convey the story. Chanos and Gupta have only limited scenes together, but, again the chemistry makes Dar sympathetic to the audience when he needs to choose between his friendship and his duty to the Iman. Kohli and Chanos’ scenes go from sympathetic to violent in the blink of an eye. Kohli is manipulative, powerful, and the only person standing between Nick, Nick’s death, or Nick’s freedom. In each scene, the characters work with strong stage presence and maintain the intensity of “The Invisible Hand.”

The creative team for “The Invisible Hand” begins with director, Jerry Genochio and his production team. His team includes Matther Andrew, scenic design; Melissa Torchia, costume design; Elizabeth Harper, lighting design; Jeffrey Cay, projection design; Andre Pluess, sound design; John Wilson, fight director; and Mary R. Honour, production stage manager. The team set high standards in all phases. The projection was well conceived to show changing dates and time. The lighting created dramatic effects. The sound was important to reflect the off stage environment and approaching warfare.

“The Invisible Hand opened Friday, Oct. 21 and continues through Nov. 13 on the Copaken Stage in the H&R Block building in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. For more information on times, dates, tickets, check the KC Rep website.
Tags: Performing Arts, Arts & Entertainment, UMKC, KC Rep, “The Invisible Hand”, Theatre, Kansas City, Drama

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