BWW Reviews: The Rep Presents Excellent Production of THE INVISIBLE HAND
When we think in terms of terrorism, we usually picture suicide bombings, and planes flying into the sides of buildings, but we rarely ponder the idea of socioeconomic terrorism. That's why the Rep's final Studio Theatre production is so compelling and brilliant; that possibility is brought to light in a crisply acted and paced 75 minute piece called The Invisible Hand written by playwright Ayad Akhtar. Superior acting and direction make this into a fascinating and revealing show, that will gives audiences plenty to think about as they leave the theatre.
If it's true that whoever controls the world's currency essentially controls the world, then that's truly a scary thought. Especially when you consider the plot of The Invisible Hand. A former trader for a financial institution named Nick is kidnapped because he's thought to be the CEO of the company. An outrageous ransom is proposed and left unpaid, which puts him in the awkward position of having to aid his captors in their quest to tip the balance of power in their favor. In the process of “selling their currency short” in order to gain the capital funds necessary to gain his release, Nick inadvertently trains his kidnappers in the fine art of the deal. But, they take things one step further by driving a bomb laden van directly into the world bank to create chaos as well as cash flow. Nick may wind up paying his captors in spades, but when help finally does arrive, his guilt at what he's unleashed gives him genuine pause.
John Hickok is excellent as Nick, trying to put into layman's terms the tricky financial choices that have to be manipulated in order to turn the kind of profit that will free him. He's desperate, but he definitely has second thoughts when Bashir, one of his captors, is able to pull off a monetary coup by himself. Bhavesh Patel is the English educated Bashir, and he does a fabulous job of walking the fine line between being a menacing presence and an eager student of economics. Once he grasps the concepts, it's only a matter of time before he can start acting on his own, and that leads to a surprising ending. Ahmed Hassan is solid as Dar, a sympathetic guard who gets a bit too chummy with Nick and volunteers for a suicide bombing to atone for his transgressions. Michael James Reeds fills out the cast as both a guard for the Pakistani's and an American agent who shows up at the end.
Seth Gordon's direction is sharply conceived and executed. This is a story based in reality, and there are no false moments to be found. Gordon is aided by a fine cast, as well as the work of scenic designer Scott C. Neale, who creates two different takes on a holding cell for the show. Ann Wrighton's lighting keeps the action clearly in focus, and Lou Bird's costumes evoke both cultures represented, while Rusty Wandall's sound design sets the mood.
The Rep continues to produce ground-breaking works that makes you think, and The Invisible Hand, does just that, making one aware of just how fragile the world economy is, especially when there are those who mean to take it down. This outstanding production continues through March 25, 2012 in the Studio Theatre of the Loretto-Hilton.