Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Disgraced
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Review by Patrick Thomas | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of If/Then and My Mañana Comes and Patrick's review of Shakespeare Goes to War


Bernard White, Nisi Sturgis, Zakiya Young,
and J. Anthony Crane

Photo by Liz Lauren
The timing couldn't have been worse—or better—for opening night of Disgraced, the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama from playwright Ayad Akhtar, currently running in Berkeley Rep's Roda Theatre. Just hours before, a scene of horror had played out in a theater in Paris, and suddenly being a member of an audience took on a much darker aspect. But because Disgraced deals with issues of Muslim identity—even to the point of a guilty pride in the success of Islamic extremists—it was the perfect night to see this brilliant work of theatrical art.

Disgraced centers around Amir Kapoor (Bernard White), a successful lawyer occupying a gorgeous Upper East Side apartment with his wife Emily (Nisi Sturgis), an artist whose work plays with Islamic forms—much to Amir's chagrin, as he is anything but proud of his Muslim heritage. To Amir, Islam is a backwards philosophy and the Quran nothing more than "one very long hate mail letter to humanity." But after a minor incident at a restaurant the previous night, Amir's ancestry has bubbled back to the surface of their relationship.

Once again, the timing is off, for Amir and Emily are soon to host a dinner party for a colleague of Amir's, Jory (Zakiya Young), and her husband Isaac (J. Anthony Crane), a curator for the Whitney Museum, who is on the verge of giving Emily a spot in an upcoming exhibition. There's a lot at stake at this dinner, especially since Amir was photographed by the New York Times with an imam falsely accused of funneling money to Hamas, causing some backroom talk among the partners at the law firm. Add some liberal pours of scotch and you've got the recipe for a very explosive evening.

And explode it does, as Amir, while reviling Islam, reveals some shameful yet heartfelt political positions that push the buttons of pretty much everyone else in the room. (And what a room! John Lee Beatty, multiple Tony Award-winning scenic designer is responsible for yet another gorgeous environment.)

The cast is uniformly brilliant, but special recognition must be given to J. Anthony Crane for a bold, passionate and fair-minded portrayal of a Jewish man both defending and accusing Islam, and to Sturgis, whose fiery delicacy in the play's most heartbreaking moments is simply stunning to witness.

At 95 intermission-less minutes, Disgraced gallops along, its compelling story building in perfect alignment with the characters' own journeys. Every time we understand each of them a little better, it moves the story forward. Likewise, with every elevation of the stakes in the story, we gain a deeper appreciation for the individuals caught up in what's happening around them.

Your timing is perfect: Disgraced plays through December 20. Don't miss it.

Disgraced runs through December 20, 2015, in the Roda Theatre at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison Street, Berkeley. Shows are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Wednesday and Sunday at 7:00 p.m., and 2:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (No performance on Thursday 11/26, additional matinees on Thursday 11/19 and 12/17. No Saturday matinee on 11/7 or 11/21, no Sunday matinee on 11/8.) Tickets from $29-$89, with discounts available for students, seniors, and groups. Half-price tickets available to anyone under 30. Tickets are available online at www.berkeleyrep.org, or by calling the box office at (510) 647-2949 or during box office hours: Tuesday-Sunday 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.


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