Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 10, 2018

REVIEW: Chester Theatre Company, Disgraced

Chester Theatre Company, Chester, MA
Through July 15, 2018
By Mary Fernandez-Sierra

Moving and superbly performed, Disgraced is another triumph for Chester Theatre Company.

This play, a Pulitzer Prizewinner about heritage and cultural currents and consequences, is heartrending, thanks to the eloquent script by Ayad Akhtar and dynamic direction of Kristen van Ginhoven.

It is the tale of true love lost and gifts gone wrong due to misunderstanding and intolerance, so it is not easy theatre to sit through; but it is worthwhile to absorb the message, and to admire the fine performances of the cast, as well as the artistry of the Chester Theatre ensemble in the telling.

J. Paul Nicholas as Amir, the up-and-coming American executive who both seeks and hides his Muslim background, is utterly charming and tragic.  He is a powerhouse performer, giving his all to the role.

Stunning as well is Kim Stauffer, portraying Emily, Amir’s wife. One hears her visions about Islamic art, seeing them through her eyes as though the visual images were present onstage. Her deep affection for her husband and her artistic ideals are fully realized in a passionate and powerful performance.

In supporting roles, Christina Gordon, Jonathan Albert and Abuzar Farrukh are equally strong. Each character steps up, speaking the truth as they see it in difficult circumstances, with depth and conviction. The subtle humor and wit of this play is often rendered up by these characters; bravo!
Photo by Elizabeth Solaka

Scenic Design by Juliana von Haubrich creates an elegant contemporary New York apartment, somehow evocative of boxes, pigeonholes and bars. Lighting Design by James McNamara is extraordinary in its rich colors and patterns, suggesting underlying drama and tension, as well as ancient Islamic beauty.

Costume Design by Stella Schwartz realizes the glitz and glamor of aspiring young professionals, and Tom Shread’s exotic music seems to flow from the characters themselves, and the disparate worlds they come from.

Behind all this theatrical harmony is the fine hand of Director Kristen van Ginhoven, who orchestrates the voices, hearts and events in Disgraced with certainty and simplicity to be a meaningful tale for our times.