Pendragon Theatre's DISGRACED: A Mind-Blowing Rollercoaster of Emotions

DISGRACED at Pendragon Theatre 
(Saranac Lake) Ayad Akhtar's DISGRACED opened at Pendragon Theatre last night to a packed house with an audience that twisted into multiple directions from laughs to gasps. DISGRACED is an emotional rollercoaster  that tugs at heartstrings, and questions ideals while handing out racism, colonialism, and Islamophobia at the audience's feet.

There is nothing color-blind about Akhtar's play and Director Kimberley A. Bouchard's cast drives that point through with pinpoint accuracy. Each character is pinned to his/her skin color, ethnic traits, or cultural differences.

The play opens in the Upper East Side Manhattan apartment of Emily Hughes-Kapoor (Mackenzie Barmen) and Amir Kapoor (Anthony Michael Irizaary). Emily is an artist searching for her breakout piece experimenting in her husband's cultural Indian patterns. He is a mergers and acquisitions lawyer  working toward making partner while scrubbing that very ethnicity.

Scene, lighting, and sound designer Kent Barrett uses elegance and texture through materials, lights, and sound to create the sophisticated dwelling of this Upper Eastside couple. The mirrored wall is a powerful weapon as it reflects the emotions of the Kapoors and their guests throughout the performance.

Barmen's Emily is riveting as the white wife who brushes off her husband's fears as a post 9/11 Muslim in the States. Barmen drives her character with just the right touch of naivety. All stereotypical blonde and blue eyed, Emily has married into her husband's Islamic culture through her art, but not enough to convert. She wants to just choose the beauty and complexity of the Islamic patterns without the complexity of the religion and culture.

Kapoor can't escape his past. He has changed his last name and his social security to distance himself from his past. He lies about his motives and a drunken confession opens up how his family's own racism shaped him.  His nephew Abe (Lucky Cerrutti) chastises him for not being truthful to his heritage.

Cerrutti plays Abe like a card shark, not letting go of his whole hand at the first meeting. He is saying all the right things, encouraging his Aunt Emily to have the infatuated Kapoor meet with an imprisoned Iman. After a paper mentions Kapoor and his law firm as representing an alleged terrorist, Kapoor structured life spins out of control.

Irizaary as Kapoor, making his Pendragon debut, is brilliant, plain and simple. One moment he is confident attorney, but in a flash he is the religiously persecuted. His movements are exacting and words precise. He draws the audience into his drama, whether its rage, deep sorrow, fear, or passion for what he can't explain.
The height of the production brings two couples connected through work to the Kapoor's apartment for a dinner party. Isaac, a Jewish art curator (Tyler Nye) has eluded to an art show featuring Emily's work while his African-American wife Jory (Meredith A. Watson) harbors a secret that she has been made partner over Kapoor at their law firm. Stereotypes are aired, argued, and defended. 

Meredith Watson's Jory, making her Pendragon debut, adds levity to an awkward dinner party. Watson portrays Jory with such expressiveness that the audience is belly laughing with her one moment and gasping in shock the next. She pulls at the heartstrings while still pointedly putting Kapoor in his place. She is powerful, yet vulnerable as she takes each conflict in stride. 

Tyler Nye's Issac is rigid and overbearing, but who waxes poetic in regards to Emily's upcoming art show. He drops his words like fireworks, blasting Kapoor when he berates his Jewish culture.  Issac's agenda becomes clear later when his affair with Emily is revealed.  

There are too many layers to express all that happens throughout Pendragon Theatre's production of DISGRACED. The one thing to say is that this show should not be missed. Bouchard has pulled together a brilliant cast who are able to blend the darkness of human nature with basic human compassion. The audience is left reflecting on assumption made and acted upon that can't always resolve our differences.  

Summary: DISGRACED by Ayad Akhtar connects people through cultural differences, while dissecting their prejudices. A simple dinner party pulls apart people's defenses rather than through the pretenses of a colorblind society.

Admission:  $15/children under 18 or matinee performances, $22/Seniors 65+, $25/adults 
Dates: July 1,5,6,7,8,11,12,13,14 at 8 pm with Sunday matinees on July 2 and 9 at 2 pm 
Age appropriate: High School students and Adults

Directed By Kimberly Bouchard
Scene, Lighting and Sound designer: Kent Barett
Costume Designer: Kent Streed
Scenic Charge Artist: Mary Olin Geiger
Stage manager: Susan Hearn
Technical Director: Jason Nedrow

Amir – Anthony Irizarry

Emily – Mackenzie Barmen
Jory – Meredith Watson
Isaac – Tyler Nye

Abe – Lucky Cerutti
Movers: Sarah Benamati, Natalie Orman

© Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Time™ guidebook series. Adirondack Family Time™guidebooks have easy, short Adirondack family hikes for ADK kids, parents, retired, seniors, dog-owners, Adirondack swimming holes, Lake Placid Olympic activities, Adirondack trivia, Adirondack horseback rides, Adirondack snowshoe family trails and more. Look for the Adirondack family guidebooks online or bookstores/museums/sporting good stores. Diane is currently working on the next Adirondack Family Activities™ guide.


Unknown said…
I was more then pleasantly surprised last evening, when I saw DISGRACED. The performance was brilliant. I had only read the small blurb description, prior to seeing the play. The realistic portrayal of human emotions and inner turmoil both conscious and subconscious, were food for thought. We have been discussing the complexity of issues portrayed by the individual actors, as well as the contention of the overall theme. Loved it!