By Chris Servais
This month, Magnus Theatre will present its production of Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced. This will be director Mario Crudo’s final production before leaving his role as artistic director with Magnus, and he’s infectious in his enthusiasm for the play. “This is my last show,” he says. “It feels pretty good. We’re continuing to have a good run with Million Dollar Quartet and we’re really pleased about that. Hopefully Akhtar’s Disgraced will bring in audiences as well, and have them leaving the theatre with something to talk about afterward.”
The play deals with issues of identity, integration, and family. Amir and his wife Emily are hosting a dinner with their friends. Amir is Muslim and his wife is a Caucasian artist influenced by Islamic art. He’s trying to push his ethnicity away, and she is attracted to that culture. Over the course of their dinner, conflicts of all kinds are brought to the table.
Crudo experienced a visceral personal reaction to the play upon first reading it, and feels that the themes are broad enough to appeal to many audiences for similar reasons. “On first seeing the play one could get the impression that it’s specifically about the Islamic experience,” he says. “However, I personally identified with the play quite strongly due to my childhood experience as an Italian immigrant. And I think many other people will, because it’s about the experience of feeling like you need to change or hide who you are.”
Rehearsals for Disgraced began on October 10, with several days of extensive table reading. The play is rich in contemporary and popular references, which required that the cast and crew to establish a strong and rounded familiarity with the material. Developing the many nuanced opportunities for interactions between the characters was both a challenge and a pleasure, says Crudo.
Artistic director Thom Currie, who will be assuming Crudo’s role with Magnus going forward, points to the Pulitzer prize-winning Disgraced as an important piece for world drama. “One of Mario [Crudo]’s strengths here at Magnus is that he’s always been on the cutting edge of bringing in new works, not just the same stuff all regional theatres do. There’s always something new at Magnus.”
Disgraced runs from October 31 to November 12. For more information, visit magnus.on.ca, or check out Magnus Theatre on Facebook.