It has been over a week since we saw the play at the Rep, but I still haven’t written about it. I guess, I’ve been having trouble understanding it and have been procrastinating because of that. I’m speaking about Ayad Akhtar’s 2012 Pulitzer Prize winning play, “Disgraced”. Set in contemporary New York City, the play is the tale of the tragic fate of Amir, a Wall Street lawyer of South Asian descent, who seemingly has it all, but as this short, ninety-minute story tells, he has nothing and will soon lose everything. He has denied his heritage and himself, to reach the pinnacle of his success: a tony Manhattan address, a partnership in the offing and a lovely American wife. In the opening scene Amir is seen posing before his artist wife for his portrait, where he stands rampant in suit and tie, but without pants. Costuming that telegraphs the message that the emperor has no clothes. His sitting is interrupted, when his nephew arrives and asks him just to meet with a Muslim cleric being held on terrorism charges. At the combined urgings of his wife and nephew and against his better judgement, he meets with the cleric and so begins his downfall. In the end, he left homeless, unemployed and estranged. He has been disgraced.
In classical literature, Amir has committed the greatest sin that a protagonist can commit, denial of self. That may be true in literature, but this is America, the land of the free, where anyone can make of themselves what they want. Amir has seemingly made a good life for himself, but it all turns out to be a lie. Is it really Amir’s lie though or is it more ours. He had bought into the American dream, but when his past was revealed that dream turned on him and crushed him. His sin was simply to hide the accident of his birth, which was forced upon him to succeed. In Amir’s downfall, I see America as the one disgraced. It is America that is living the lie, the lie that here all men are created equal and that this really is the land of the free.