Amir and Emily Kapoor are living the good life. He is a lawyer at a prestigious firm, expecting to make partner, and she is an artist on the rise. They live in a great apartment with a killer view of the New York city skyline.
And they seem happy, trying to find time for romance between the texts and the phone calls.
But this cheery scenario doesn’t last long in “Disgraced,” which opened Thursday night in the Fulton’s Tell Studio Theatre.
For a tense, funny, revelatory and sometimes terrifying 90 minutes, the lives and identities of the Kapoors and their friends, Jory and Isaac, are ripped apart.
Amir (a fantastic Abhi Katyal) is a Pakistani Muslim who has rejected his past and assimilated into the culture of the Upper East Side. He hasn’t even told the partners at his firm that he’s Pakistani, instead implying he’s Indian and Hindu.
In 2011 New York, when the memories of Sept. 11 are still vivid, he figures it’s for the best.
But his white wife, Emily (an equally dynamic Liz Shivener), embraces the Muslim world, finding inspiration in its art and philosophies. It is a mild point of contention between the two.
But then Amir’s nephew, Abe (Zal Owen, offering up the perfect combination of youthful anger and fear) asks his uncle to come to court to help a local imam who is being accused of raising money for terrorists.
Amir doesn’t want to do it, but his nephew and wife push him, and he agrees.
The New York Times reports on his appearance in court and names the law firm where he works. The article implies he is part of the legal team.
This is not good. Amir worries that the partners at the firm, who all are Jewish, will hold it against him. Emily doesn’t see a problem. Is it her white privilege? Her self involvement?
Several months pass and we come upon an intimate dinner party they are throwing for Jory, Amir’s African-American colleague at the firm, and Isaac, who is Jewish and a curator at the Whitney art museum.
Amir arrives home and heads for the liquor. Something bad has happened at work and he’s on edge. Emily arrives with food for the dinner and reminds Amir she needs his support. Isaac could change her life.
Jory and Isaac (a fine Erinn Holmes and Andrew Kindig) sense immediately that something is wrong and the conversation opens up to reveal hidden feelings and ideas, frustration and anger. Nobody leaves unscathed.
Every sentence becomes a minefield.
Playwright Ayad Akhtar’s dialogue is brilliant and natural: a dinner party on steroids and lots of scotch.
There were times during “Disgraced” when I didn’t breathe, it was that thrilling to watch these two couples in action.
William James Mohney’s set was great, with a chilly intellectual vibe to it, which perfectly set the mood.
Kudos to director Marc Robin for bringing this terrific play alive. You will be thinking about it for a long time to come.