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NY1 Theater Review: 'Disgraced'

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Ayad Akhtar's play "Disgraced" opened off-Broadway in 2012 and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize last year. Now, the celebrated drama has opened on Broadway. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

I have to believe "Disgraced" won the Pulitzer Prize because it makes us think - deeply. Ayad Akhtar's 90-minute drama about the role of religion, politics and identity in our terror-ridden world has flaws but it is extremely provocative. And now, with the scourge of ISIS dominating headlines, the play is more compelling than ever.

It's set in New York City, where America's melting pot can quickly turn into a seething cauldron with the right ingredients. And they're all here. Two couples gathering for a friendly dinner in an Upper East Apartment. Amir Kapoor is a Muslim corporate attorney, and his white wife Emily is an artist inspired by Islamic art forms. They've invited Isaac, who's Jewish and a curator at the Whitney, and his black wife Jory to celebrate Isaac's decision to include Emily's paintings in an upcoming show.

It's the climactic third scene in the play. But all of the preceding action is merely a set-up for what happens here. Amir is Pakistani, but citing anti-Muslim sentiment, changed his identity to appear Indian. He's terribly conflicted about his Islamic roots, rejecting the religion while unable to shed his ethnicity. At the dinner, with liquor flowing and tempers flaring, the party turns ugly as long-simmering prejudices boil over.

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.

Given sensitivities to politics and religion, I guarantee you'll find in this melting pot of a play plenty of food - no, make that a feast - for thought.

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