x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Aasif Mandvi of Daily Show stars in Muslim play

The director Kimberly Senior has a lot to say about the US and the world today.

Disgraced, a sparkling and combustible contemporary drama from New York’s Lincoln Center Theatre, is set in a sun-flooded, Upper East Side luxury apartment appointed with sleek contemporary furniture and built-in bookcases.

Amir Kapoor (Aasif Mandvi from The Daily Show) lives there with his artist wife (Heidi Armbruster). A driven, Pakistani-American mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer, he is confident that his firm’s Jewish partners will elevate him.

“Leibowitz, Bernstein, Harris and Kapoor,” he says. “My mother will roll over in her grave.”

Amir relays his resolve to assimilate with pricey shirts. His wife, Emily, explores Islamic imagery in her paintings and goads him to aid an incarcerated imam who was arrested while raising money for a mosque.

“Just because they’re collecting money doesn’t mean it’s for Hamas,” she tells him.

“What does any of this have to do with me?” he asks.

“It doesn’t matter to you that an innocent man is in prison?” she retorts.

Amir reluctantly agrees and is later quoted in The New York Times defending the imam. Seeing the story, he worries that the publicity will harm his career.

Ayad Akhtar’s one-act play deftly mixes the political and personal, exploring race, freedom of speech, political correctness and even the essence of Islam and Judaism.

An experienced stage actor, Mandvi digs deeper than when playing the puckish “Senior Middle -Eastern -Correspondent” or “Senior Muslim Correspondent” on Jon Stewart’s show.

The director Kimberly Senior stages the play efficiently, though the plot is too tidy and the -exposition-to-action ratio not entirely satisfying. But Akhtar, a 41-year-old Brown University--educated actor, playwright, novelist and screenwriter, has lots to say about the US and the world today. He says it all compellingly, and none of it is comforting.