.Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

San Jose Stage Company hits a nerve with Pulitzer Prize-winning 'Disgraced'

Civil society unravels quickly at a small dinner party in the Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘Disgraced.’

The San Jose Stage Company has truly outdone itself with its latest production, Disgraced. This 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winner is a must see. Prepare to be shaken.

Penned by Pakistani-American playwright Ayad Akhtar, Disgraced opens on a expansive, luxurious upper East Side apartment. An Arabic coffee pot sits on the coffee table and a statue of Shiva sits next to the door—offering a slight foreshadowing of things to come.

Emily, played by Allison F. Rich, is trying to sketch a portrait of her husband, Amir, played by Damien Seperi. She is white and he is of Pakistani descent, but as their conversation about painting gives way to talk about a racist encounter a few days before, it is hard to tell who is on what side. Emily is genuine and considerate, if naive. Amir, a successful lawyer, is cynical, defensive, and far from comfortable in his own skin. Abruptly Amir’s nephew Abe, played by Salim Razawi appears, pleading with his uncle to give legal support to Abe’s imam, who has been arrested on suspicion of terrorism. Amir begrudgingly accepts.

Soon we meet Isaac, Emily’s art dealer, played by Jonathan Rhys Williams. He is funny, childish, charming and patronizing, with the dry whimsy of a New York intellectual. His wife, Joy, is more like Amir: independent, pragmatic, and a lawyer at Amir’s firm. They all convene for a dinner party. And as drinks flow, the conversation becomes political, personal and vindictive—even violent—before ultimately concluding in a shocking calamity.

Every actor in this play is superb; each precisely balances the intimate tension and dark comedy that makes Disgraced unrelenting and ultimately devastating.

Rich’s portrayal of Emily is complicated and earnest—a quality of wonder. Seperi, as Amir, is high-strung, but equally unchained, and delivers a gut-wrenching performance. Williams, as Isaac, is incredibly unpredictable but equally believable. His wife, Joy, played by Kathryn Smith-McGlynn, is straight-laced, witty, but undeniably shrewd. Even Razawi plays the young nephew Abe with a youthful, fanatic energy. By the end, the collective performance power of the cast elicited gasps from the audience.

Disgraced
Thru Feb 26
San Jose Stage Company

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