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Disgraced at GableStage: Timely and Powerful

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The War on Terror is now older than most middle-schoolers, yet it seems that nobody gets it. Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn't. Bashar El Asad doesn't. And the U.S. military, which this past weekend bombed a hospital in Afghanistan most certainly doesn't know what the hell is happening.

Therein lies the value of GableStage's Disgraced. The play, which opened last week, explores Islamophobia from a lot of perspectives — that of a self-loathing Muslim, a Jew, and even an artist infatuated with the culture. It mixes in some smart New York talk on the subject, an affair and some wife beating, and much more to come up with a powerful and enlightening performance.

The best thing about this show is the Pulitzer Prize-winning script by Ayad Akhtar. It tells the story of Amir Kapoor (Armando Acevedo) and his wife Emily (Betsy Graver) through a New York dinner party gone wrong. He is a Muslim who has risen through hard work in a Jewish-owned New York law firm. She's a non-Muslim, blond artist who's infatuated with the Muslim culture and also painfully career driven. Their uncomfortable marital problems hit the fan one night at a dinner party with two friends/business associates, Jory (Karen Stephens) and her Jewish husband Isaac (Gregg Weiner).

This script, in Joe Adler's adept hands, is fast-paced, smart, and keeps you constantly thinking on a variety of dimensions about how and why the actors say what they do. There is very little ac-ton here, so it's all about the dialogue — which scores big points.

Among the actors, Graver is the strongest, her character's prodigious ego subtly unfolding in fascinating ways. Acevedo was handed a difficult task in depicting Amir, who has lied on his job application and worked his ass off at a New York law firm only to run into not only his bosses' suspicion of his religion and his own questionable judgment.

Weiner is also very good, if somewhat miscast in his role as an art dealer. And Stephen is nearly perfect in her role as a lawyer and the only really sensible one in the play. 

The set here is the only real problem with this production. While it could be mistaken for a New York apartment, there is no real artistic touch to give you the sense that someone with an aesthetic eye put the place together.    

The play, which is the last of the season for GableStage, is important and delightful. GableStage makes us swallow the medicine of understanding what it is to be a Muslim in modern-day America — without even knowing that is happening. 

Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar plays GableStage at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables, at 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday (no evening show October 4, matinees October 24 and October 31) through November 1. The cost is $37 to $55. For more information, visit gablestage.org.

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