Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Invisible Hand
Olney Theatre Center
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of The Crucible and Titus Andronicus

Maboud Ebrahimzadeh and Thomas Keegan
Photo by Stan Barouh
Who would think that the minutiae of financial transactions could be at the heart of an engrossing political thriller? Ayad Akhtar's drama The Invisible Hand, in the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab at the Olney Theatre Center in suburban Maryland, examines the role of money in international politics through the story of an American banker taken hostage in Pakistan.

Nick Bright (Thomas Keegan) is being held by Bashir (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) and his assistant Dar (Ahmad Kamal) in a bleak concrete cell (designed in detail by Luciana Stecconi). They believe he is a high-value target and have set his ransom at $10 million. Bright knows he isn't important enough for his bank to send that much money, so he makes a counter offer to his captors: he will teach them about commodity trading, allowing Bright to earn his ransom while helping Bashir finance his cause.

Director Michael Bloom lays out the dramatic situations without skirting the ambiguities involved. Bashir and Dar are working on behalf of Imam Saleem (Mueen Jahan), whose organization provides community services such as health care at the community level while nationwide services are weak or nonexistent, but can he be trusted with large amounts of money? Bashir—who grew up in London but returned to his parents' homeland to join the struggle—blames the instability of the Pakistani government on the interference of the U.S. and other countries, but soon discovers the intoxication that comes from making a fortune out of virtually nothing.

Akhtar, a Pakistani American who received the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for his earlier play Disgraced, uses this situation to spotlight the shifting alliances among countries and factions and what happens when "currency is king." Bright lays out the ways the U.S. helped organize international financial markets in the 1940s, while Bashir talks about how the U.S.-backed, anti-Soviet mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980s morphed into al-Qaida and attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001.

Ebrahimzadeh and Keegan are the twin anchors of the production, but the four actors work together as a unit and no one can really stand alone.

Olney Theatre Center
The Invisible Hand
May 9th - June 10th, 2018
By Ayad Akhtar
Dar: Ahmad Kamal
Nick Bright: Thomas Keegan
Bashir: Maboud Ebrahimzadeh
Imam Saleem: Mueen Jahan
Directed by Michael Bloom
Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or