Alberta Theatre Projects’ Disgraced doesn’t dig deep enough

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Alberta Theatre Projects’ production of Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced is quiet. It gets under your skin. It’s uncomfortable and charged. The cast is talented and their performances are nuanced but the play could go deeper. It brushes on deep rooted anger and racism but once it gets interesting the play seems to turn away from the digging deep into the issues.

The play tells of Amir (Shaw Lall), an American born, muslim raised lawyer who is married to Emily (Sasha Barry), an emerging painter who focuses her art on Islam. Amir is on track to be partner at his firm when his nephew Abe (Hamed Dar) and Emily convince him to support a local imam who is standing trial on charges that may be twisted. Amir concedes and the New York Times notes his presence at the trial.
When Amir and Emily host Amir’s African American colleague Jory (Samantha Walkes) and her Jewish husband Isaac (Tyrell Crews) racial tensions heat up. Confessions are made and punches are thrown.

The performances of Disgraced are compelling though there are a few instances where the lines seemed rushed and came off a bit awkwardly. It is great to see Barry on ATP’s stage as her talent is of note. Dar’s Abe could be a bit more passionate in the ending scenes but overall is engaging. Walkes’ Jory is sure and steady while Crews’ Isaac is also quite good. Lall’s Amir has to carry the play and he manages it, making Amir complex and layered.

Karl Sine’s fight direction is a weak link in the play as it isn’t believable and that takes power away from that scene. Especially of note is Melissa Mitchell’s costume design that has the women in very interesting rich dresses that sets the play in New York. Walkes is costumed in a jade green dress with elegant sleeves and sparkly heels. Scott Reid’s set design is thoughtful, with books and trinkets on the shelves of the apartment that display their wealth while Narda McCarroll’s lighting design goes red in the background when the scenes are changing.

Disgraced is high drama and director Nigel Shawn Williams has a good script to work with. It just doesn’t dig in to the emotions that motivates each character. The radical ideas and emotions are presented, but the audience is left wanting more. There is deep prejudice that exists on stage, but it isn’t explored very much.

Alberta Theatre Projects’ presentation of Disgraced runs until November 3rd. More information is available online.

Photo Credit: Erin Wallace

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