Monday, March 19 , 2018, 1:53 am | Fair 43º


Gerald Carpenter: Center Stage Theater Hosts Pulitzer Prize Play

The Producing Unit will offer five performances of Ayad Akhtar's Pulitzer Prize-winning, Tony-nominated drama, Disgraced (2014), Sept. 28 through Oct. 1, in the Center Stage Theater, 751 Paseo Nuevo.

The production is directed by Peter Frisch and stars Fajer Al-Kaisi, Ivy Vahanian, Ryan McCarthy, Rasool Jahan and Samip Raval.

Wikipedia's synopsis of the play's action is terse and to the point:

"Lawyer Amir Kapoor and his wife Emily host an Upper East Side dinner. Amir is an American-born, Muslim-raised Manhattan mergers and acquisitions lawyer, while Emily is an up-and-coming artist who focuses on Islamic themes in her art.

"Amir has cast aside his Muslim heritage for the sake of his career and serves as Emily's muse, who has an affinity for Islamic artistic traditions. Prior to the dinner, Amir, who is on the partner track, becomes involved in a controversial case.

"Amir's assimilated nephew, Abe (born Hussein Malik), has concerns regarding the propriety of the arrest of a local imam who is imprisoned on charges that may be trumped-up of financing terrorist-supporting groups,[8] leading Amir to question whether it is religious persecution.

"Emily encourages the reluctant Amir to appear in court in support of the imam, in an unofficial capacity that gets mentioned in The New York Times. The case becomes dinner conversation when he hosts Jory, a colleague from work, and her husband, Isaac, who is Emily's Jewish art dealer.

"In all, the dinner table assembly includes an ex-Muslim, an African-American, a Jew and a WASP dining over the topic of religious faith."

Ayad Akhtar was born and raised in the United States. His heritage is Pakistani and Muslim. Though he was always drawn to writing, he first became an actor, studying with Jerzy Grotowski and later teaching acting classes with Andre Gregory.

In 2005, he co-wrote and starred in a film called The War Within, about an a-political man who becomes a terrorist. He pursued his acting career and wrote three novels before writing his first play.

Since this play was Disgraced, it was obvious to him he had found his path, and the ideal venue for exploring the issues that consume him: the human condition, love, responsibility, relationships, the American-Muslim experience, economics, immigration, identity, and aspects of culture.

If there is one itch he can't help but scratch, it is his Islamic identity. "For a lot of people," he observes, "to see or hear the word Muslim is not too dissimilar to hearing the word cancer."

Disgraced plays at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $38 general admission; $25 students, and are available at the Center Stage box office, by phone at 963-0408, or on line at

"All seating is general admission," says the Center Stage management, rather sternly. "All ticket sales are final at the time of purchase. There are no refunds or exchanges.

"For all performances late seating is on a limited basis, or is not allowed at all once the performance begins. Please plan your arrival time accordingly."

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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