A ‘Disgraced’ dinner with dessert

For the 2016/2017 season the Milwaukee Repertory Theater is offering students and community   members some serious food for thought in producing the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Disgraced,” that premiered Jan. 17 and runs through Feb. 12. The show has become the “toast of the town,” all over the country, even being nominated for best play at the 2015 Tony awards with several accolades to boot for author and playwright Ayad Akhtar. “Disgraced” captures a modern slice of life of two, upscale New York couples that set their well-intended dinner gathering on a collision course as they spar on individual world views on the racial admiration, pride, prejudice and everything in between – all over fennel salad.

During the 7 p.m. performance on Jan. 28, as part of the audience we were given fourth wall access to take a peek at what many people are saying, thinking and truly feeling when they are not limited by political correctness. Your stomach and mouth may very well drop to the pits of your soul as America’s melting pot is kicked over and splashed on your shoes as you witness this unravel.

Marcela Lorca directs an understated, but powerful cast of theater heavy-hitters reminiscent of a “Friends” episode vibe for its coolness and humor with the intense subject matter of a “Law and Order” or “Scandal.” The cast, which includes Amir (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh), Emily (Janie Brookshire), Isaac (Jason Babinsky), Jory (Austene Van), and Abe (Imran Sheikh) who makes appearances throughout the play serving as the “jewel of knowledge dropper” – offer true to life performances.  The even-keeled portrayals hit home that we can be sitting right in front of our family, co-workers, and friends physically and yet be perfect strangers in ideology and point of view.

The play is set in an upscale New York (think Manhattan) apartment with a door person, patio and boundless ceilings. Set designer James Youman’s choices in furniture, art and décor underscore and visually represent the play’s statement on class, image and social standing.

The play offers a fresh and open perspective on the thought-invoking subject matter that the attendees are apportioned. Act 1 of the play runs for one hour and 25 minutes uninterrupted, and the audience members are the muses for Act 2 during professionally facilitated dialogue sessions as a “dessert,” to a thought provoking dinner. The no-pressure chat sessions take place after each performance on Tuesday, Thursday and weekend evening shows so that the community can advance, question and continue the powerful conversation that the play stood up and started.

Students can catch remaining performances Feb. 9 – 12 at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.  It surely will cause your stomach to growl, your mouth to water, and invoke a true hunger in a cool, intellectual way.