Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
In rural Pakistan, American banker Nick Bright (Craig Marker) has been kidnapped by militants who mistook him for his Citibank boss. They demand a $10 million ransom for his release. The U.S. government refuses to pay because the group's leader has been branded a terrorist. The fascinating twist is that Nick manages to persuade his captors that he's an asset worth keeping alive. He undertakes to raise the ransom money in a year by playing the international stock market, trading in futures and currencies, and treating them all to a master class in how to profit from free-market capitalism.
The playwright uses the situation to open up all kinds of arguments about the ethics of capitalism, especially the 1944 American agreement that moved everyone to the gold standard which meant the promise of postwar permanency of American power.
Bashir (Pomme Koch), one of the guards who is given to anti-Western tirades, becomes more adept as time goes by as a master of the trading game. The leader, Imam Saleem (Barzin Akhavan), uses money for road and irrigation projects and to purchases vaccines, and also slips a tidy sum into his own pocket. The playwright charts the crumbling of the cell with skillfully designed sneakiness. As the Imam declares, "We are prisoners of a corrupt country of our making."
Director Jasson Minadakis has assembled four spellbinding actors, whose performances are even more impressive because 40% of the script was changed mere weeks earlier, including most of the second act. Craig Marker gives a riveting performance as the imprisoned banker Nick. He skillfully moves from his arrogant demand to barely contained lunacy throughout the drama in an outstanding performance. Barzin Akhavan, with his intense Shakespearean voice, is terrific as Imam Saleem. Pomme Koch as the hotheaded abductor who loathes all rich Americans, gives a tremendous performance, while Jason Kapoor is perfect in the role of the sympathetic jailer Dar.
Kat Conley's scenic design of a prison cell in Pakistan appears authentic in every detail, while Chris Houston's sounds are haunting throughout, with an elusive crescendo of military drones that starts as a barely distinguishable buzz. Lighting by York Kennedy is very effective while Callie Floor's costumes are accurate. Director Jasson Minadakis' production has a pulsating energy and the acting is superb for the two hours with intermission
This is a drama that challenges, entertains and horrifies all at once. It is much more rapid-pace drama rather than worldwide economics session.
The Invisible Hand plays through June 26, 2016, at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave, Mill Valley. For tickets call 415-388-5208 or visit marintheatre.org. Marin Theatre Company will open their 50th season with Tracy Letts' August: Osage County on September 8th.