Unicorn production presents challenging concepts with ‘Disgraced’

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By Bob Evans

Ayad Akhtar’s drama, “Disgraced” opened to a sold out audience on Saturday night, October 21 on the Jerome Stage and shocked audiences with in-your-face stereotypes reflecting the unrest and misgivings after the World Trade Center attack.

Combine an up and coming lawyer of the Muslim faith, Amir; his American wife, an artist specializing in Islamic art; a Jewish art dealer, with a roving eye; an African American female lawyer competing with the main character for position at the same law firm; and watch what happens as truths come to light over dinner and some wine. The other piece of the puzzle comes from Amir’s nephew who wants his uncle to support an Imir suspected of raising money for terrorists.

Sounds like a powder keg awaiting someone to light the fuse. Add alcohol, stir, and watch as prejudices come to the forefront, politics and religion clash in the ugliest terms. Amir changed his name and denounced his Islamic background for personal growth. The effects of his denials surface and because of 9/11 fears and Islamophobia. The dinner conversation touches upon “Islamic and Jewish tradition and beliefs expressed in the Quran and the Talmud.

Dialogue and chemistry among the characters move the piece with speed and force. Each word, gesture, facial expression–all serve to create the tight, cohesiveness of the characters in this one set production. The one-act play moves fast and entraps the audience in the its seemingly nonchalant opening scene. Once the dinner guests arrive, the action kicks up quickly; the political and racial profiles explode and stereotypical attitudes begin to emerge. What begins simple spirals into extreme ugliness as the play continues.

The play confronts the fears of American-born Muslims prior to and after 9/11. The blame game begins. Once begun, the insults and confrontations run amuck. “Disgraced” also dispels the theory that hard work and dedication equal well-deserved rewards in the professional world. The play is a microcosm of American ideas and values.

Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize winning drama, “Disgraced” comes to the Unicorn stage under the direction of Sidonie Garrett with a stellar cast who bring the shock and awe to the piece. The talented cast is: Matt Rapport, Molly Denninghoff, Alexander Salamat, Shawna Downing, and Michael Thayer. The selection of “Disgraced,” for the Unicorn’s season stems from the expertise of Producing Artistic Director, Cynthia Levin who always finds pieces to challenge audiences and renew The Unicorn’s efforts to produce bold new plays to the Kansas City audiences. The production staff includes Tanya Brown, stage manager; Emily Swenson, assistand director, properties designer; Gregory Chafin, technical director; Nicole Jaja, lighting designer; Mary Traylor, costume designer; David Kiehl, sound designer; Tristan James, scenic designer; Alyson Greminder, dramaturg; Erdin Schultz-Brewer, production assistant; Lindsay Adams, dramaturgy intern.

“Disgraced” challenges audiences to see events surrounding the characters in new light. Each character brings preconceived notions to the forefront and asks viewers to rethink their beliefs. The strength of the cast forces the issues. Their professionalism add an electrical charge to already laser-like focus of the piece. Like all good theatre, “Disgraced” educates, entertains, and elicits further discussion. This could be the strongest piece of The Unicorn’s season.

“Disgraced” runs through Nov. 12 at The Unicorn Theatre in mid-town Kansas City, Missouri. Tickets may be purchased at the box office, by phone, or via The Unicorn website. www.unicorntheatre.org
Tags: Unicorn Theatre, “Disgraced”, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment

Image courtesy of Cynthia Levin & The Unicorn Theatre

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