BWW Reviews: THE INVISIBLE HAND at ACT Grabs You & Doesn't Let Go
There are moments, Dear Reader, when you can encounter a work that can completely revitalize your love of good theater. Such was a moment for me the other night when I was lucky enough to catch ACT's production of "The Invisible Hand". I really wasn't sure what I was in for except that it was a play about politics and economics in Pakistan from Ayad Akhtar, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of "Disgraced". What I got was an absolutely gripping evening of theater thanks to a killer production and a riveting play that I cannot urge you enough to go see.
The play centers on Nick Bright (Connor Toms), a young American working for Citibank in the stock market in Pakistan. Nick is mistakenly abducted by a group of Islamic militants who were trying to get his boss. Unfortunately Nick isn't quite important enough to ransom and thus not important enough for his abductors to keep alive. In an effort to save himself he convinces them that he could make them a lot of money by doing what he does best, reading the stock market and trading for them. As Nick works with his captors a kind of friendship develops that ends up being the most dangerous situation of all.
Akhtar's script is nothing short of masterful with engaging dialog and plenty of twists and turns. Even if you're not a master of socio-political economics, Akhtar manages to explain everything you need to know in exposition that never feels like exposition and ultimately adds to the high stakes nature of the drama. And director Allen Nause takes this brilliant play and crafts it into a poignant, thought provoking and thrilling piece of theater with a stunning ensemble cast.
Toms turns in one of the best performances of his I've seen. His emotional journey through this incarceration is palpable and will have you laughing one minute, terrified the next and tearing up right after that. Erwin Galan manages some beautiful and diverse moments and brings some wonderful sensitivity to what could be a throw away part. William Ontiveros as the leader of the Islamic group is wise, benevolent, Machiavellian, and horrifying all at the same time. Elijah Alexander turns in a performance that I could not keep my eyes off. He completely owns the stage when he's on and manages to deliver a truly layered and complex portrait of a man stuck in between his religion, his duty, his drive and his friendship. And each and every one of the ensemble are so tight and together that they almost feel like one performer as the power dynamic shifts around the stage with grace.
On the Saturday night that I saw this the house was only about two-thirds full which made me quite sad by the end that more people weren't seeing what I had just seen. The subject matter or a lack of familiarity may be a tough sell but this is on the must see list. Thrilling, heart wrenching, and insightful this is a beautiful work that deserves your attention which is why I'm wholeheartedly giving it a WOW (my highest rating) with my three letter rating system. Do not let this one pass you by!
"The Invisible Hand" performs at ACT through September 28th. For tickets or information contact the ACT box office at 206-292-7676 or visit them online at www.acttheatre.org.