Mr. Akhtar's play, which was first seen in New York in 2012 and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, has come roaring back to life on Broadway in a first-rate production directed by Kimberly Senior that features an almost entirely new cast. In the years since it was first produced here, the play's exploration of the conflicts between modern culture and Islamic faith...have become ever more pertinent...Although "Disgraced" runs under 90 minutes, with no intermission, Mr. Akhtar packs an impressive amount of smart, heated talk -- as well as a few surprising twists, including a shocking burst of violence -- into the play's taut duration. Ms. Senior...continues to find fresh currents of dramatic electricity...Most important, Mr. Dillon, who played Amir in a London production, brings a coiled intensity to his performance that makes Amir's increasing antagonism all the more unsettling. Flickering underneath his cool, crisp exterior is a pilot light of resentment that holds the key to the play's eventually devastating denouement.
DISGRACED Broadway Reviews
Reviews of Disgraced on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for Disgraced including the New York Times and More...
Akhtar's blistering "Disgraced" opened Thursday on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre with a punch and power that won it a Pulitzer Prize. Few playwrights are examining what Akhtar does, certainly not with his insightfulness, and his play is breathtaking -- and not a little uncomfortable -- to watch. In the best of ways. An excellent five-person cast led by Hari Dhillon -- and beautifully directed by Kimberly Senior -- starts the play with swagger and confidence, building to horrific exchanges in which they are at each other's throats...Dhillon nails the master-of-the-universe strut and moves across the stage almost like a boxer when his anger is fueled, making his fall all the more painful, while Mol skillfully lets a silent gulf slowly emerge between her and her husband. But perhaps the best performances are turned in by Radnor (TV's "How I Met Your Mother") and Pittman (Broadway's "Good People"), two natural stage actors who get to be funny, outraged, needy, broken and feisty -- and manage to do it all in the 90-minute work.
Issue-driven plays are thought to be relatively impervious to production vagaries. That's generally true of Akhtar's perhaps overly schematic play, which is constructed like a house of cards, its highly civilized human relationships in perfect harmony until someone breaks out of character and throws them all off balance...Some of the production alterations for Broadway are purely cosmetic. Being more elaborate, John Lee Beatty's set design of a stylish Manhattan apartment (a terrace!) and Jennifer Von Mayrhauser's fashionable costumes put more emphasis on the elegant life style of the characters. The new cast, including Josh Radnor as the curator, is perfectly satisfactory, but so was the original one that played in the smaller-scale production at Lincoln Center...But it must be said that replacing Aasif Mandvi...as Amir with Dhillon...puts a new perspective on the central character.
Some plays have a soft and gentle feel. Others build to a climax but remain mellow for the most part. And then there's Ayad Akhtar's explosive race relations drama "Disgraced," which makes its audience feel like it was just uncomfortably blindsided and hit with a ton of bricks...Even if some of the plot developments are relatively over-the-top, Akhtar raises a provocative debate over racial and religious identity that is as compelling as it is disturbing. "Disgraced" is essentially a modern tragedy, leaving its audience in a state of fear and pity. Just as Oedipus was helpless to alter his fate, Amir is seemingly unable to escape his heritage. Kimberly Senior's engrossing production is marked by strong performances all around. Dhillon convincingly depicts Amir's descent out of cool professionalism, while Radnor brings a professorial, purposely unpleasant touch to his character that is a far cry from the ultra-romantic Ted Mosby.
The brisk and bristling "Disgraced" confers on Broadway a quality in far too short supply: topicality. Ayad Akhtar's spiky drama...grapples with a subject as rich in dramatic possibility as it is juicy fodder for Sunday morning talk shows. Akhtar's concern here is Islam in America...As directed by Kimberly Senior, the 85-minute play...is all rhetorical sharp edges, honed by a solid cast headed by Hari Dhillon, Gretchen Mol and Josh Radnor...It's an admirably taut evening, marred slightly by a few instances of overeager performance: some shouting and gesticulating encouraged in the pumping up of the play's fireworks. Otherwise, "Disgraced" is just what a serious theatergoer craves these days: a tough-minded inquiry that finds urgent dramatic connections in things that divide us.
Akhtar writes with insight and passion, raising every imaginable argument associated with the Islam debate in America. And while the play's second half is riveting, it's also somewhat contrived as the characters' motivations and actions sometime strain credibility. It is acted beautifully by a five-member ensemble featuring Hari Dhillon, Gretchen Mol, Josh Radnor, Karen Pittman and Danny Ashok as Amir's impulsive nephew. And under Kimberley Senior's bracing direction, get ready to gasp.
"Disgraced," which races by in less than 90 minutes, is not a comforting play. It forces us to reflect on who we are, and what we really think about the guy with the different race, religion or ethnicity who lives next door.
First seen in New York in a lauded 2012 run as part of Lincoln Center Theater's emerging artists program, this Broadway transfer is smart, spiky entertainment...director Kimberly Senior's production deftly modulates its way through the play's seismic mood shifts -- from complacent banter through mounting prickliness and incendiary animosity to shattered aftermath. However, to get the quibbles out of the way first, any flaws are most likely to be noticed by that small handful of the audience returning to Disgraced after seeing its superior previous incarnation...Radnor (How I Met Your Mother) is a standout among the accomplished cast, walking a fine line between relaxed charm and smug condescension as a man unaccustomed to self-examination.
In truth, this is a superior production to the one that opened at Lincoln Center in 2012, with a more charismatic cast and a better sense of the rising ideological stakes. In the lead role of proudly assimilated lawyer Amir Kapoor, Hari Dhillon cuts a handsome, graceful figure...He has an easy chemistry with his pretty wife, Emily (Gretchen Mol), an artist whose recent work is influenced by Islamic ornamentation. The plot is mainly a vehicle getting its characters to a place where they show the cracks within carefully constructed social attitudes of worldliness or multiculti tolerance...Akhtar may not have revolutionary things to say about poorly repressed animosities between East and West, but he says them eloquently and passionately. Now that the context has changed, maybe I'm listening more closely.
Now finally, "Disgraced" has opened on Broadway, directed again by Senior but with less compressed tension and with four of the five characters recast. The play remains a smart and provocative work of unusual daring, one that should be seen by anyone who cares about serious theater and the knotted tangles of tribal beliefs that lurk under civilized layers of educated, liberal professionals. But the magic is missing at the center and that magic was Aasif Mandvi...Dhillon's Amir is more dashing and tightly wired, but without the charisma and likability that first must humanize a man who challenges us in monstrous ways. This Amir doesn't shock us enough when the politics of race and gender explode the tolerance of two upscale Manhattan couples...Nothing is sacred -- the Quran, the Old Testament, terrorism, art history, cultural tourism, ancient prejudices and blazing ambivalence -- as Akhtar rubs unexpected raw spots with enormous intelligence and humor. Too bad Broadway doesn't get to feel all the burn.
By the end of Disgraced, Amir -- who seemed so richly human earlier, with his capacity for arrogance and shame and fear and pride and empathy -- has been reduced nearly to a victim, and his potentially intriguing journey to a sort of cautionary tale about ambition and bigotry. To Akhtar's credit, and that of director Kimberly Senior and her excellent cast, that tale is at least fun to watch. Hari Dhillon makes Amir...charming and frustrating, showing us both his cultivated slickness and his ongoing struggle to reconcile what he's experienced...with what he's become. Gretchen Mol movingly conveys Emily's own conflicts, and her fundamental decency.Josh Radnor and Karen Pittman provide witty, full-blooded performances as the Kapoors' guests, who seem to have their own issues...Their combined efforts make Disgraced consistently entertaining and thought-provoking -- just not as much as you wish it were.
There are some topics you just shouldn't discuss at a dinner party. Religion, race, politics -- it's probably good to avoid these controversial matters altogether, and focus on more agreeable subjects. Like the weather. Perhaps if the two couples in "Disgraced" would have taken that advice, they would have avoided a whole lot of trouble and pain. Then again, if the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Ayad Akhtar, now open at the Lyceum Theatre, stayed away from such discourse, we wouldn't have been treated to one of the season's most engaging nights of theater...It's easily the most impassioned dinner scenes on Broadway since "August: Osage County," and one that playwright Akhtar crafts beautifully. His dialogue is intelligent and superb -- his characters so complex yet well-defined -- that you'll travel along the ride of emotions and ideas not knowing where you're going next. And like any good roller coaster, the final drop will leave your heart in the pit of your stomach.
Akhtar packs a lot into his scenes, in terms of both coincidence-heavy personal drama and talky disquisitions on religion and politics, but he usually manages to pull back from the edge of too-muchness. Director Kimberly Senior...shows an admirable restraint in her well-paced scenes...Dhillon, an American-born actor who's spent much of his career working in the U.K., shows more stiff-upper-lip reserve in the early scenes, merely pacing and fidgeting to signal Amir's discomfort in his own skin. It's an approach that doesn't go far enough to establish Amir's coiled volatility. The rest of the cast seem more attuned to the demands of the material; Mol in particular radiates a sensuous intelligence that is enormously appealing. B+
The theater might not have entertained such a party gone bad since George and Martha invited Nick and Honey over for drinks in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"...Akhtar comes at every question with guns firing from all four corners. Two minutes into the dinner party, his ethnic construct doesn't seem contrived. It recedes, the Indian -- and African American characters turn out to be the foursomes' bona fide conservatives, and soon there's much more violence on stage than ever entered the heads of George, Martha, and guests. But, and this is a significant "but," there's another 30 minutes to "Disgraced." Akhtar brackets his dinner party from the Ninth Circle with scenes between Amir and his nephew (Danny Ashok)...It's baffling and more than a little unsatisfying to have a minor character undergo the play's greatest metamorphosis and to do so offstage when the major characters are fighting it out onstage.
The grey-walled apartment with pass-through window to the kitchen is this week's John Lee Beatty set. Last week's--or maybe it was two week's back--offering was for the above-mentioned Donald Margulies's new play, A Country House. Beatty never stops, and it's possible, given the misfortunes occurring in the Disgraced manuscript, that this house beautiful could come onto on the market sometime soon. If so, grab it at whatever the asking price.
This bigger, more glamorous Broadway version exposes more faults and infelicities, but also strips away one's liberal pieties more effectively. Perhaps Disgraced won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize not so much for drama as for bravery...Akhbar's craft is such that, amid the rubble of his argument, the questions -- and they are important ones, worth asking on Broadway -- survive. Perhaps, after all, the argument was just a house for the questions, and not, as is more typical, vice versa...In general, though, the Broadway resizing and recasting does not work to the play's advantage. Kimberly Senior's direction grows stronger as the play proceeds, but nearly derails the story at the start, with confusing staging and flaccid pacing. And though Hari Dhillon is riveting in his unraveling, he does not make us understand, as the charming Aasif Mandvi did Off Broadway, what was so delightful about Amir before the trouble began.
This is a genuinely provocative premise for an issue-driven play, and Mr. Akhtar deserves much credit for grappling honestly and forthrightly with what in other hands could easily have become a mealy-mouthed exercise in can't-we-all-get-along difference-splitting. Unfortunately, his dramaturgy isn't as impressive as his nerve. Not only do his characters spend far too much of the evening making speeches to one another, but every "surprise" is telegraphed so far in advance of its eventual arrival that you find yourself getting actively impatient for the reveals. It doesn't help that the climax of "Disgraced" is a get-the-guests dinner party that starts off with competitive upper-middle-class brand-dropping in the manner of Tom Wolfe (much is made of the fact that Amir wears $600 Charvet shirts to the office) and builds up to a full-scale brawl in which the participants, having downed a couple of drinks too many, rip off their masks of comfy tolerance and reveal themselves to be....wait for it...BIGOTS!
"Disgraced" debuts on Broadway aglow with a Pulitzer Prize and awash in the same pros and cons of its 2012 Off-Broadway run. On the plus side, the play is lean and timely...On the downside, conveniences stack up. And Akhtar relies on the hoariest devices around...Even with flaws, "Disgraced" is observant and smart. Kimberly Senior, who directed the world premiere at Lincoln Center, guides a good-looking and handsomely acted production...Like sports cars, the actors hugs their characters' curves. Dhillon, who played his role in London, nails Amir's glossy arrogance and sense of loss. Emily is sympathetic, as played by a low-key and quiet Mol, while Radnor is convincing and natural. Pittman, an Off-Broadway holdover, again delivers a precise turn as pointed as Jory's sexy stilettos. Blunted by contrivances, the impact of "Disgraced" isn't as sharp -- or as potentially dangerous -- as it could be.
Timely dramas on Broadway are in very short supply, and that alone makes the bow of Disgraced an event worth applauding...The play has lost its essential velocity in the move from Lincoln Center Theater, where Amir was played with a thousand volts of electricity by Aasif Mandvi...On the stage of the tiny Claire Tow Theater, Mandvi seemed ready to explode at any second. Dhillon is clearly a skilled actor, but his Amir doesn't fibrillate with the pent-up anger the character needs if he is to be credible. This may have something to do, as well, with the ciphered performance by Mol, who seems to be sleepwalking through the show. She's out of her league on the Broadway stage, and you can sense from the other actors that she's giving them nothing to work with. The dazzler in this production, staged again by Kimberly Senior, is Pittman, taut and almost serenely tough...It still raises deeply discomfiting questions. But this little off-Broadway potboiler has reduced to a simmer in the move to Times Square.
"Disgraced" was far from perfect when it opened off-Broadway two years ago, but it worked up to a point...Now "Disgraced" is back, with a new cast, on Broadway at that. But the bigger stage hasn't been kind to the show. Because the play seems like a PowerPoint lecture about current hot topics -- terrorism, Islam, Jews, religion, art -- it requires excellent acting. Pity the performances here are wildly uneven, and a couple of them are downright bad. Purists may look suspiciously at Josh Radnor...But Radnor's actually quite good as Isaac, a smarmy, smug Whitney Museum curator -- and Karen Pittman, the original cast's lone survivor, is even better as Isaac's no-nonsense wife, Jory. No, the problems are Hari Dhillon and Gretchen Mol. Inconveniently they play the leads, attorney Amir Kapoor and his wife, the WASP-y painter Emily. And they're never believable -- either as a couple or as, you know, people.