Theater Corner: “Disgraced” does not disgrace the Denver Center

The topic of Islam and Muslims has been the center of heated conversations in current events generating discord and conflict. That did not stop the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company from facing the topic head on.

“Disgraced” by Ayad Akhtar is strong, blunt and honest conversation about Islam in modern America. It chronicles the life of Amir Kapoor, an American Muslim who has renounced his religion.

Amir Kapoor is the traditional American businessman who worked hard to get a high-profile attorney, a high-rise apartment and a wife who thinks highly of him. Along the way to the life he’d always wanted, he left a lot of the old Amir behind, specifically his religion.

Dorien Makhloghi in “Disgraced” at the Denver Center.

Amir said he had undergone ‘apostasy’, the act of renouncing the Islamic faith. This left a large schism in his life, as his friends and family all criticize this decision.

This play, which won a Pulitzer Prize, will certainly leave attendees examining both sides of this captivating, yet fairly uncommon story.

The playwright forces you to see an alternative perspective. Some people feel that giving up their heritage and religion is the right choice because you must assimilate into the mainstream American culture if you want to be successful. On the other hand, America is supposed to be the land of diversity where a person of any race or religion should be able to achieve the same success as anyone else.

Both sides of the topic are presented and both sides make compelling arguments to the audience. The play does not stake itself in rights and wrongs, nor does it ask the audience to. Each patron is still given the decision of where they stand on the topic.

This political drama would not be able to convict audiences as much as it does, if it did not have the high rate, jaw dropping cast that it does.

Leading the show as Amir is Dorien Makhloghi. His portrayal of the upstanding, New York elitist is captivating as he draws you into viewing him as Amir would want to be viewed; strong, powerful and without doubt. But when the moment called for it he was able to shed the power façade and show the vulnerable, self-conscience boy who always had and always would exist underneath.

Playing Amir’s supporting and artistic wife is Olivia Gilliatt. Gilliatt’s character is one who does not agree with her husband’s decision to renounce his faith because of her love and admiration for Islamic culture. Yet her respect and awe of Amir overshadows those doubts as she pours herself out for him time and again. Gilliatt is a strong actress who brings a strong voice to a character who is desperately trying to be heard by her surroundings.

 

Filling out the supporting characters, although all in the cast drive the show themselves at times, is Vandit Bhatt as Abe, Benjamin Pelteson as Isaac and Christina Sajous as Jory. The entire cast brings the life and power that script deserves.

 

“Disgraced” is a conversation starter. It took a complex and tense issue in American society and started a dialogue that opens up the conversation for everyone to participate in.

Dorien Makhloghi, Olivia Gilliatt, Christina Sajous, and Benjamin Pelteson in “Disgraced” at the Denver Center.

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“Disgraced” ***½ (our of four stars)
“Disgraced” now playing at The Ricketson Theatre 1400 Curtis Street, Denver, CO 80202. Directed by Carl Cofield. Starring: Dorien Makhloghi and Olivia Gilliatt. Through May 7. For tickets visit Denvercenter.org

 

Also playing:

42nd Street- Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

The Robber Bridegroom- Town Hall Arts Center

The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow- Vintage Theatre productions

Disenchanted!- BDT Stage

Evita- Lone Tree Arts Center

The Drowning Girls- Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

The Gun Show- And Toto Too Theatre Company

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