A strong performce from every cast member in a play that layers tensions about gender, race, and privilege.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m a fan of live theater, and the excellent productions at Pittsburgh Public Theater. I’ve encouraged my readers to go there before, and probably will again. But today I really want to press you into going to see “Disgraced,” which runs until April 10th.

You really need to see this production.

I’m writing this, the day of the bombings in Brussels, a few days after I saw the show. And as I listen to the news, I’m hearing it through a very different lens- the lens of “Disgraced.” I’m thinking about the horror of explosions and deaths while at the same thinking about how difficult it may be for anyone who is Muslim, and how fear and ignorance fuel the battle in big as well as small ways.

When I first read about Pittsburgh Public Theater’s choice to produce, “Disgraced,” I was intrigued. The show sounded interesting. But I had no idea how well it would weave together ideas about race, culture, status, and stereotypes in such an evocative way. I think part of what I enjoyed the most was how forthright the show is. The playwright makes no excuses nor holds back on any punches, and the result is a play that provokes the audience into this messy mix of history, passion, belief, expectation, betrayal, and regret.

Does this vest hint at being wired, like an explosive suicide vest? The masterful costuming of CT Steele.

As a gay man, I saw a parallel early on: Abe, the teen muslim man and Amir the older apostate muslim have each sought out and rationalized ways to hide their faith and their heritage. How much this is like living in the closet! And just like the gay closet, at some point, it all catches up with you, and wreaks havoc in your life. It isn’t so much that all of a sudden, it happens, but rather that slowly, over time, little things eat away at your core till one day, life begins to unravel.

In the play, it can seem as if one event is the turning point— that before Amir goes to the trial, life is one way, and then after the newspaper story, it is another. But in reality, that is one of the many fallacies the play is inviting us to dissect. The notion that the newspaper account misrepresents Amir causing everything to crumble is put out there as easy pickings. If we, the audience, do the hard work of paying attention, there is so much deeper to get from it all.

As an artist, I truly enjoyed how Art and an artist’s influences plays a key role in the storyline. I too have fallen in love with an idea and blindly failed to realize how my own privilege colors my understanding.Emily tries so hard to convince Amir that his life experience misses a beauty at the core of his heritage, and refuses to acknowledge his lived experience.

PPTdisgraced008tcwAnd don’t be misled to think the play is only concerned with American/Muslim tensions. Not at all. As Amir yells, “I’m the nigger here,” we are all forced to grapple with a broader appreciation of othering, and power differentials.

You really need to see this production.

I’ll be honest, the show isn’t always easy to watch. There is real conflict, and the cast is superb in making real the story in front of you. “Disgraced” is theater at its finest in this regard. I’d like to say which actors stand out, but the reality is that they all do. Every performance is spot on and powerful.

PPTdisgraced077tcwAnd possibly the most important aspect of the show, is that it forces you to leave the theater still thinking about the play. If your experience is like mine, you will keep processing it for days after.

Tickets can be purchased here.

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