The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi shows acting chops in 'Disgraced'
This theater image released by Philip Rinaldi Publicity shows Aasif Mandvi, left, and Omar Maskati in a scene from the "Disgraced" in New York. (AP Photo/Philip Rinaldi Publicity, Erin Baiano)
This theater image released by Philip Rinaldi Publicity shows Aasif Mandvi in a scene from the "Disgraced" in New York. (AP Photo/Philip Rinaldi Publicity, Erin Baiano)
This theater image released by Philip Rinaldi Publicity shows Aasif Mandvi, left, and Heidi Armbruster in a scene from the "Disgraced" in New York. (AP Photo/Philip Rinaldi Publicity, Erin Baiano)
It’s an oft-used device in theater: The doomed dinner party, a gathering that starts out politely, with house gifts of wine or pastries and glasses clinking over civilized chatter, and ends up in horrific, angry chaos.
But when that party chatter touches on Islamic and Judaic tradition, the Koran and the Talmud, racial profiling and Sept. 11 and the Taliban and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Benjamin Netanyahu e_SEnD along with the requisite alcohol intake e_SEnD well, that’s a whole other level of chaos.
And it all unfolds with speed, energy and crackling wit in Disgraced, a terrific new play by the actor, novelist and playwright Ayad Akhtar.
Fans of Jon Stewart will have an extra motivation to head over to Lincoln Center’s Claire Tow Theater – the new home of the LCT3 series, which promotes rising playwrights. The lead character, a Pakistani-American corporate lawyer in New York, is played by Aasif Mandvi, the very funny correspondent on Stewart’s The Daily Show. Here Mandvi shows a dramatic depth and perceptiveness his TV fans likely never have seen before. (But he’s not new to the stage; he’s also the writer of the Obie Award-winning play Sakina’s Restaurant.)
Mandvi plays Amir Kapoor, a Manhattan yuppie if ever there was one. He and his wife, Emily, live on the Upper East Side in an apartment vividly described in the script as “spare and tasteful with subtle flourishes of the Orient.” Manhattanites in the audience will salivate at the sight of a terrace, however small, off the living room.
Amir loves the Knicks and the Magnolia Bakery and his elegant $600 shirts with their “ridiculous thread count.” He’s not a partner yet, but he sees himself as on the rise at his law firm, Leibowitz, Bernstein and Harris – he even fantasizes about the name “Kapoor” added at the end.
On the surface, Amir has no desire to honor or even recall his roots. A Muslim by birth, he has renounced his religion. Aware of stereotypes in post-9/11 America, he finds it better to have his law firm think his father was born in India, not Pakistan – technically, that was true, after all, since his father was born a year before Pakistan existed.