Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 26 August 2016
Disgraced, Aug 25, 2016 ****
Disgraced by Ayad Ahktar, Melbourne
Theatre Company Fairfax
Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Oct 1, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:****
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Fri Aug 26, 2016 and later in print. KH
Hazem Shammas, Zindzi Okenyo, Mitchell Butel, Kat Stewart
New York may be a melting pot of races, religions and classes but in Ayad
winning play, Disgraced, that pot suffers some ugly cracks and leaks.
(Hazem Shammas), a tough, corporate lawyer with a Jewish law firm, lives in a sleek,
Upper East Side apartment with his artist wife, Emily (Kat Stewart), whose
paintings appropriate the Moorish design style of Muslim North African.
America of Pakistani parents, Amir identifies as American, changes his surname
to Kapoor, an Indian name, and is critical of the religious and political
values and practices of Islam to which his nephew, Hussein (Kane Felsinger),
Amir’s law firm colleague, Jory (Zindzi Okenyo), an African-American, comes to
dinner with her art dealer husband, Isaac (Mitchell Butel), the intelligent,
witty but booze-fuelled conversation turns to religion, race and politics, secrets
surface and things get ugly for everyone.
five middle-class people who argue capably about politics and sound as if they
care about the world but who are all narcissists obsessed with their own views,
lives and careers.
no attempt to provide convenient answers to the fraught social issues that have
plagued both his country and ours since September 11.
informed dinner conversation turns to animated political debate then
degenerates into a verbal battleground as characters abandon discretion and
revert to deep-rooted tribal attitudes and primitive fears.
climax is shocking and unexpected, although Amir’s surprising admissions and
subsequent actions seem unlikely and a little contrived and, at this climactic
point, characters behave more like stereotypes.
impressive and audacious as Amir, portraying him as a passionate husband and an
ambitious lawyer whose bullyboy tactics in his corporate role match his steamroller
attitude to dinner conversation and, we discover, to his marriage.
between vulnerability, earnestness and feistiness as Emily, accentuating her naiveté
about not only Islam and art but also about her own relationship with her
Hazem Shammas, Kat Stewart pic Jeff Busby
Isaac as a smug, arrogant, arty smarty-pants but balances his annoying traits
with wit and great comic delivery.
has under-written the character of Jory, leaving Okenyo with little to do apart
from contradict her husband or act as a foil for Amir and Isaac’s conflict,
while Felsinger, as Abe, provides the combative argument of the politically
engaged young Muslim.
Tass’s assured direction focuses on the inner turmoil and outward conflict of
the characters, taking advantage of Akhtar’s bold and controversial dialogue
that confronts the audience with the characters’ often offensive views and even
more shocking actions.
is a challenging and confrontational play that will leave you with plenty to
debate in the car on the way home.