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Disgraced: A Diverse Play Perfect for a City Like Houston

Gopal Divan in Disgraced
Gopal Divan in Disgraced
Photo by Ashley Garrett
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Winner of the 2013 Pulitizer Prize for Drama, Disgraced, by Ayad Akhtar, tells the story of Amir Kapoor, a successful Pakistani-American corporate lawyer whose world is turned upside down when a dinner party forces him to re-evaluate the Muslim faith that he has so determinedly moved away from.

Actor Gopal Divan plays the Amir role in the one-act season opener for the 4th Wall Theatre Company, and calls the role one of the most complex and diverse characters he’s ever seen written for a South Asian actor. “I’m not someone who’s Muslim. I wasn’t born a Muslim, but I keep playing these Muslim characters.”

His character buys into the American Dream. “It’s that conflict between letting go of one identity, one sense of belonging, to belong to something else. He’s definitely veering toward the end of the spectrum for the American Dream, but certainly he’s still connected to his identity of being a Muslim, a devout Muslim at some deep-rooted level. That struggle between belonging and not fully knowing where he belongs, made it very exciting.”

Kim Tobin-Lehl, who is directing, says the diversity of characters in the play appealed to her. "You have two South Asian Muslim characters, you've got a Jewish character, and you've got a black character and a white character. I think it's very important to show all these people living in successful American culture talking about their heritage, culture and their religions and American values, and that's America."

"I feel like it's an event, not just a play," she says. "It being seen in a small theater is something people have not experienced in most theaters in this country. This show has been done in large theaters in most of the cities of this country. I don't think there's been many small theater experiences of this show. We are going to be one of the first."

Philip Lehl, who is acting in the play, said Disgraced was the most-produced play in the 2015-16 season. "The fact that no other bigger [Houston] theater picked it up was stunning to us. I can only say that we don't shy away from challenges."

"It's a terrific, challenging play about what's going on now," he says. "It's a character-driven play, but it also wants to talk about issues that are in the news every day."

Performances are scheduled for September 7-30 at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays at Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring. For information, call 832-786-1849 or visit 4thwalltheatreco.com. $32 general admission, $26 seniors, $17 students, $53 premier and pay what you can on Monday, September 25.

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