BWW Review: DISGRACED Brings High Emotions at Syracuse Stage

BWW Review: DISGRACED Brings High Emotions at Syracuse Stage
L- R James Ludwig, Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte, Victoria Mack, and Gillian Glasco Photo by Michael Davis.

Syracuse Stage's first production of 2017 is the 2013 Pulitzer Prize winning play, Disgraced, by Ayad Akhtar. Brilliantly directed by May Adrales at the Archbold Theatre at the Syracuse Stage/SU Drama Complex, the 90-minute production left the audience emotionally stunned as the curtain went down. The production is real, raw, and powerful.

The play that was inspired by events of 9/11 and resonates with us even more today with the events, laws, prejudices, and judgments that have come about within the past few weeks in America. The emotional production is a must-see as the five actors create characters on stage that pull on our heartstrings and really makes the audience think.

Lee Savage sets the stage beautifully by creating Amir (Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte) and Emily's (Victoria Mack) high-end apartment in New York's Upper East Side, including a floor to ceiling painting of "Portrait of Juan De Pareja" by Diego Velázquez. The painting later is transformed into the portrait that Emily paints of her husband, Amir and that transformation is breathtaking. The set features all modern, urban, white furniture placed on deep blue floor. The walls are also deep blue. Seth Reiser's lighting throughout brings even more intensity to what happens onstage.

But I am getting ahead of myself here. The story begins with Emily painting her husband Amir in the likeness of the "Portrait of Juan De Pareja." The scene is rather comedic as Emily only needs to see Amir from the waist up and he stands pantless. Flirtation ensues and it's apparent the couple is happy and successful. It appears that Amir really has achieved the American dream. He has the perfect home, a beautiful wife, and successful career as a lawyer. However, sometimes things are not as they actually appear to be.

As mentioned, Amir is a successful lawyer with the hope to make partner. He is proud to be an American, but not so proud of his ethnicity and Indian and Pakistani cultural heritage. In contrast, Emily - his up-and-coming artist, blonde, all-American wife - is intrigued by Middle Eastern culture. He incorporates it into her art and sees Amir as her Muse. While their work lives are vastly different, there are linkages. Emily works with Jory's (Gillian Glasco) husband Isaac (James Ludwig). Jory is a hardworking African American colleague of Amir's and Isaac is an art critic that Emily once had an affair with. This, undoubtedly complicates Amir and Emily's relationship, and these complications come out in full force during a very awkward and tense dinner party at Emily and Amir's. During the dinner party, literally everything is laid out on the table, including promotions, past affairs, hidden ancestry, opinions on politics and religion, and prejudices. As the characters drink more and more, the conversations become very intense.

As Amir, Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte is intense, consistent, and captivating. Amir's disdain for his own ethnic and religious heritage shines through in his performance. As he speaks his lines the audiences can hear the coldness and anger in his voice that emerges if there is any discussion of his Muslim background. He defiantly steals the show as we see his perfect world slowly fall apart and Amir loses everything, including his job, his wife, and himself.

As Emily, Victoria Mack is lively, emotional, and passionate. She lights up the stage in the opening scene as she paints her husband's portrait and she captures Emily's passion for the Middle East with her vibrancy. Her acting allows the most significant scene - the one where Emily admits to having an affair with Isaac and her husband beats her for it and ultimately embraces his own heritage - to pack the emotional punch it should.

James Ludwig, as Isaac, highlights the comedic aspect to the character upon first introduction. He analyzes Emily's recent painting and takes his glasses on and off while looking at the painting from every angle. Ludwig consistently plays the role with confidence and intelligence. Gillian Glasco, as Amir's determined and talkative colleague Jory, is confident and captivating. She commands attention each time her character speaks. Glasco has amazing presence on stage. Her voice and body language allow her to interact perfectly with each character in a believable way.

Nik Sadhnani portrays Abe, Amir's nephew, quite passionately, which befits the character. Unlike Amir, Abe is a devout Muslim who comes to his uncle with the hope that his uncle will represent his mosque's leader that has been arrested on unfair grounds.

Disgraced is one of those gripping, intense, and very real plays that is - now more than ever - a play that needs to be performed and seen across the country. At Syracuse Stage, we have the opportunity to see a winning production of it. The actors are intense, passionate, and devoted to their roles making it a captivating, thought-provoking, and highly emotional evening of theatre that leaves the audience at a loss for words.

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.

Guidance: Mature themes and adult language. Good for college age students or very mature high school students.

Disgraced runs through February 12, 2017 at the Archbold Theatre at the Syracuse Stage/ SU Drama Complex, 820 E. Genesee Street, Syracuse, NY. For tickets and information on this production and upcoming productions at Syracuse Stage click here.


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