BWW Previews: THE INVISIBLE HAND at Ensemble Theatre Company

BWW Previews: THE INVISIBLE HAND at Ensemble Theatre Company
Photo: David Bazemore

At a time when American audiences have in mind the drama of a dysfunctional government and a "war on terror" that seems like nationally-sanctioned racism, Ensemble Theatre Company brings The Invisible Hand, Ayad Akhtar's thriller about money and corruption, to the Santa Barbara stage. The production, about the unseen powers that control the free market, welcomes back actor John Tufts, seen previously at Ensemble in I am My Own Wife. Tufts plays Nick, an investor in Pakistan kidnapped by Islamic extremists for a hefty ransom. Nick's company will not meet the multimillion-dollar payoff, and the U.S. State Department doesn't negotiate with terrorists, so Nick is left to his own devices--his skills at playing financial markets--to earn his release.

Tufts calls The Invisible Hand "a remarkable piece of writing about what happens when capitalism goes unchecked." Akhtar's work, seen most recently in Santa Barbara in The Producing Unit's mounting of Disgraced, explores how pressure builds in the spaces where Islam and western culture smash into each other. His work is known for fast, intelligent dialogue that packs a poetic punch. Tufts, who's spent much of his career in classical theater, appreciates the realistic, nail-biting tension of this play, and describes the volley of conversation as being "not like a tennis match, but like a racquetball game bouncing off the walls: it hits you in all directions."

Like the capitalist market or the politics of cultures at odds, The Invisible Hand is deeply complex. It examines characters' philosophic relationship with money, yet takes a detached view of the merits of capitalism, striving instead to point out that capitalism thrives on self-interest, and has no stake in culturally ascribed morality. Nick manipulates the market to win his freedom--in exchange for millions of dollars that will directly fund the terrorist cell holding him captive. On the other side of the equation, the kidnapper, Bashir (Jameal Ali), struggles with redefining his investment in his religion, which doesn't, in theory, honor wealth and greed. Tensions simmer as millions of dollars are won and lost in a bid for Nick's life.

The Invisible Hand plays out events in a market atmosphere without stringent guidelines, in which capitalism can run amuck. "Pakistan is the wild west," says Tufts. "How will capitalism thrive in an unregulated environment? It thrives with enormous consequence." Directed by Jonathan Fox, The Invisible Handalso stars Mujahid Abdul-Rashid and Sarang Sharma. This Southern California premiere runs at the New Vic Theater April 12-April 29th, and then moves to the English Theater Frankfurt in May.

The Invisible Hand
by Ayad Akhtar
Directed by Jonathan Fox

@ The New Vic Theater
April 12-29

Related Articles View More Santa Barbara Stories   Shows

From This Author Maggie Yates

Before you go...

Like Us On Facebook
Follow Us On Twitter
Follow Us On Instagram