There are few things that Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein likes more than encouraging a bit of theatrical controversy. He loves the free exchange of ideas that happen in a theatre, and if there is a bit of argument in the lobby after a thought provoking and well made show, well, he’s ok with that too. He believes that LWT’s production of Disgraced, the Pulitzer Prize-winner by Ayad Akhtar, has the capacity to do just that.
“This play is in a great tradition for Long Wharf of works that provoke. We have a long and noble history of doing that,” Edelstein said at the first rehearsal of the play, which took place on Tuesday.
He points to previous productions of Sixteen Wounded, a personal story of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and A New War, which dealt with the relentless cable news cycle, as pieces in that tradition. “We like to do plays that generate controversy and conversation,” he said.
Disgraced deals with the relationship of a Muslim American to his culture – it’s the “juice” of the play, Edelstein says. But the themes of Disgraced also reflect a quintessentially American experience. He believes that with very little change, that the play could represent the experiences of any group that came to this country and went through the often messy and difficult process of becoming an American. “This play is about the price of assimilation and the price of running away from who you are,” he said.
These are important questions to consider, and Disgraced does so with intensity and intelligence. It’s an exciting play, Edelstein said, a piece that resonates with audiences. It’s the kind of play that goes “like a house on fire,” according to Edelstein, and he’s excited to produce it as the opener to the 2015-16 season. “The play is ripped from the headlines, but the themes are timeless,” he said.