; Fun! Fun! Vancouver!: Disgraced

Monday, 12 October 2015


The Arts Club theatre opened its 2015/2016 season with Disgraced at the Stanley Theatre.

Meaghan and I attended the other day and we both left feeling... confused. We weren't quite sure what the point of this Pulitzer Prize-winning play was all about. The story revolves around a Muslim lawyer and his White wife. He basically denounces his faith while his wife embraces the world of Islam through her art. His nephew, who has changed his Muslim name Hussein to something more Western - Abe, is suddenly all concerned about a local imam, while the lawyer uncle doesn't give a crap about the imam but is incensed about his nephew's name change and refuses to call him anything but Hussein. Contradictory, no? Why is the Westernized nephew suddenly into defending Muslim leaders? And why is the Muslim-denouncing lawyer not seeing why his nephew would want to change his name to something more Western?

That's just the tip of the iceberg. I think the play is very layered, maybe a bit too much. Another couple enters the scene, consisting of a Jewish man and his African American wife. Heated debates and arguments erupt over race relations. Is that the point of the play? That everyone's got it hard? As a person of colour myself, perhaps I already got that memo.

A sordid love affair rears its head, which seems to spring from nowhere. Although that could also be the lack of chemistry between the actors. Meaghan thought the acting was quite stiff and was obsessed with the bad wig she saw on stage. I found it refreshing to see the diversity of actors up on the stage.

I also had some misgivings about the direction of the show. Having taken a stageplay course in Creative Writing and working with directors, I've always been told to never have the characters sit on stage, because it takes the energy completely out of the show. At one point, one of the actors sits at the dinner table with her back to the audience. Throughout the play, it was hard to hear some of the lines too as the actors are facing a certain direction.

There could be a lot of discourse and discussion inspired by this show, but the production at the Stanley has too many distractions to really get into the meat of it. And even if you look past all the minor things that we found ourselves obsessing over, was there really anything substantial there to begin with?

A head scratching beginning to the Arts Club season, though many of the upcoming shows look promising. Disgraced will definitely make you feel uncomfortable and question your own beliefs. It is thought-provoking and at times difficult to swallow. It is on for one more week at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.

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