By Jason Mount
Audiences were gripped by the tense emotions displayed on stage during Rider’s production of Disgraced.
Directed by theater professor Miriam Mills, the show tackled themes such as racism between multiple oppressed groups and the stress of denying a part of one’s identity.
These themes came across through the actions of Amir Kapoor in post-9/11 New York City, played by junior musical theater major Quentin Araujo. Throughout the 90-minute production, Araujo brought his character to life through stiff movements that expressed a stifling of emotions, only for those bottled-up thoughts to explode later.
The show follows Kapoor after he renounced his Muslim heritage by changing his name and telling his employers he is of Indian descent. After Kapoor gets involved in the trial of a man accused of terrorism, his background is revealed and the stressors of his life start bearing more weight.
Araujo excellently portrayed Kapoor’s internal struggle and rage, piercing the audience’s emotion with each line. Part of what helped Araujo deliver such a thrilling performance was the dynamic he created with his on-stage wife Emily, played by senior theater performance major Mary Foster.
Foster’s performance expressed the position of a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) in a world where many cultures converge and conflict. This was eloquently conveyed to the audience with emotion as she analyzed oppressed groups in a modern America.
One of the most impactful moments from Disgraced was the dinner scene, involving Emily and Amir, as well as Jory and Isaac, played by senior theater performance Melissa Mitchem and junior musical theatre major Jack Gerhard, respectively.
During the dinner, tempers flare as secrets are revealed, including an affair between Isaac and Emily, and Jory’s promotion at the firm where Amir works. It is during this scene that the actors were challenged the most, as they had to accurately find the rage within their character and connect with the part of that role that is oppressed by society.
What was supposed to be a nice dinner party turns into an argument between a Jewish man, a Muslim man, a black woman and a WASP woman on different cultural views. Slurs and insults are hurled across the table. Amir and Isaac get into a particular altercation over their conflicting religions, so much so that it stuck with one audience member.
“When the big fight scene happened, I was shocked at how deep tensions run between the two religions,” freshman technical theater major April Hahn said. “I had never really put much thought into how it affected our world today.”
After the dinner scene, Amir reaches his limits and starts to beat his wife. The assault ceases when Amir’s nephew Abe, played by junior theater performance major Carlos Castillo, enters the scene.
In the final moments of the play, Castillo’s character enters with Emily seeking help from his lawyer uncle about his recent unprovoked arrest and how it plays into racism against people who appear Muslim in the United States.
Castillo delivered a great performance during his limited time on stage by finding his own character’s anger at Amir and conveying the ultimate message of the play: people are disgraced by their misconceptions and prejudices of what they do not understand.
During a later scene, Foster’s character steps away to put distance between her and her former husband. Foster’s little flinches and tics during this scene express a sense of trauma and fear, showing how the Kapoors’ perfect life fell to ruins.
Freshman theater performance major Victoria Robles was intrigued by the dynamic between Araujo and Foster’s characters.
“I loved how during the duration of the show, the love between the two main characters dwindles down because of the different views and aspects on culture and race,” she said.
Disgraced left an impact on the audiences who saw the production and a lasting impression with people on the topics of racism and culture through powerful performance and incredible actors.
Printed in the 11/29/17 edition.