Ayad Akhtar’s The Invisible Hand is not easy theater. Any time you have audience members closing their eyes at anticipated violence, or start to feel slightly sympathetic toward kidnappers, you know you’re witnessing a show that leaves you unsettled and questioning.
This is the third show of Akhtar’s that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. While his previous works have focused on the Muslim-American experience, this one takes us into Pakistan. Nick, an American trader, has been accidentally kidnapped (his boss was the target) by an imam. Guarding Nick are a sympathetic young man and Bashir, an English-born striver who by turns menaces and befriends Nick. Nick, afraid his ransom demand won’t be met, comes up with a scheme to earn money for the kidnappers. As there is no honor among thieves, neither is there among kidnappers. They turn on one another and, at various times, on Nick. The play has a number of harrowing moments and Akhtar’s play mentions high-profile cases such as Daniel Pearl and James Foley, so the audience is primed for something terrible to occur.
The four actors in this play (Jameal Ali, Usman Ally, Dariush Kashani, Justin Kirk) were all excellent – portraying characters whose personal and professional worlds collide and collude. Akhtar writes in the playbill that the plot was inspired by real events, including the financial collapse and certain kidnappings. Who needs to watch tired revivals when there are insightful and thought-provoking works such as this? AFW
New York Theatre Workshop, 79 East Fourth Street
Ticket Price: through 11/30 $35, 12/2-12/10 $55, 12/12-1/4 $75
Runs thru: 1/4/15
Running time: 2 hours (including a 15 intermission)