Disgraced

Disgraced is a 2012 play by novelist and screenwriter Ayad Akhtar. The play, which won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, is centered on sociopolitical themes such as islamophobia and the self-identity of Muslim-American citizens. It focuses on a dinner party between four people with very different backgrounds. As discussion turns to politics and religion, the mood quickly becomes heated. Described as a “combustible powder keg of identity politics,” the play depicts racial and ethnic prejudices that “secretly persist in even the most progressive cultural circles.” It is also said to depict the challenge for upwardly mobile Muslim Americans in the post 9/11 America. Director Michael Arabian debuts his production at the San Diego Rep in October 2016.

Excerpt from The San Diego Tribune:

At the center of it all is Amir Kapoor (Ronobir Lahiri), a top New York lawyer whose level of success finds expression in his $600 dress shirts and the elegant penthouse he shares with his artist wife, Emily (Allison Spratt Pearce). (The place is designed to the nines by John Iacovelli.)

But there’s a deep irony (and growing source of division) at the heart of their relationship: While Amir has utterly rejected the Muslim identity of his South Asian family, calling himself a proud apostate, the WASP-y Emily embraces Islamic aesthetics and ideals in her painting.

Monique Gaffney, Ronobir Lahiri, Allison Spratt Pearce and Richard Baird (from left) in “Disgraced.” (Daren Scott)

The couple’s carefully constructed world begins to wobble on its axis when Amir, at the prodding of Emily and his own nephew, Abe (a devoted Muslim played by M. Keala Milles Jr.), appears at a court hearing for a jailed Muslim cleric.

Amir winds up being quoted in the New York Times, and is already beginning to face blowback at his predominantly Jewish law firm by the time the Kapoors sit down for a very consequential dinner party with Isaac, a Jewish curator who has championed Emily’s art, and Jory (Monique Gaffney), Isaac’s African-American wife and Amir’s work colleague.

Director Michael Arabian, previously at the Rep with “Red,” has a sure feel for calibrating the detonations to come, and his cast (which in some cases seemed a little tentative in early scenes on opening night) proves adept at tuning into the play’s intensity as it ratchets up toward the final act.

Occasionally, the startling words Akhtar puts in his characters’ mouths on the topics of religion and ethnicity can feel, if not forced, at least a little unlikely. But the playwright has a masterful way of weaving surprises into the dialogue and steering clear of cliche.

(Brian Gale’s lighting and Kevin Anthenill’s sound design inject an emotional charge, and Anastasia Pautova’s costumes are eye-catchingly savvy.)

Allison Spratt Pearce and Ronobir Lahiri in “Disgraced.” (Daren Scott )

Lahiri, a Broadway-seasoned actor who also happens to be a top sitar player and composer, finds affecting depths in the proud, brooding Amir; even in quiet moments you can sense the conflicts roiling within this man who has tried so hard to erase any trace of his heritage.

Pearce, a top San Diego-based actor with multiple Broadway credits, conveys a deep sense of warmth and open-mindedness as Emily, whose most prized painting subject is her husband.

Gaffney, another San Diego acting ace, is also in top form here as the self-assured Jory, who early on shares an easy kinship with Amir over their status as underdogs.

And two more accomplished locals — New Fortune Theatre co-founder Baird, as the provocative (and easily provoked) Isaac, and Milles, as the fervent but sympathetic Abe — bring sharply defined portrayals to this combustible mix.

And combust it does — in ways that may leave you thinking for days about unspoken (and unbidden) assumptions and prejudices just waiting for the right spark to ignite.

Twitter: @jimhebert

jim.hebert@sduniontribune.com

Additional articles:

The Times of San Diego
San Diego LGBT News
San Diego Reader

Tesla: A Radio Play For The Stage

May 19, 2017 Laguna Beach, CA

LAGUNA PLAYHOUSE announces 
HAL LINDEN has joined GREGORY HARRISON, 
DAN LAURIA, CHARLES SHAUGHNESSY, 
FRENCH STEWART & VANESSA STEWART starring in 
TESLA:
A RADIO PLAY FOR THE STAGE
Written by Dan Duling
Directed by Michael Arabian
 Four Performances Only!  May 26 – 28 
 at Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach! 

Laguna Playhouse is thrilled to announce that acclaimed actor Hal Linden (replacing the previously announced Bruce Davison) has been added to its very special theatrical event also starring Gregory Harrison, Dan Lauria, Charles Shaughnessy, French Stewart & Vanessa Stewart in TESLA: A RADIO PLAY FOR THE STAGE, written by Dan Duling and directed by Michael Arabian. “We are thrilled to be adding Hal Linden to this starry cast and delighted to offer an extra special event for our audiences of a very timely play,” comments Laguna Playhouse Executive Director Ellen Richard.  Adds Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham “We could not be more thrilled than to present Dan Duling’s play with director Michael Arabian (Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks) taking the helm. This radio play about the life of inventor Nikola Tesla, with 6 stellar actors and 1 sound effects specialist playing, combined, over 50 roles is not-to-be-missed!”  TESLA: A RADIO PLAY FOR THE STAGE will perform four performances only on Friday, May 26 at 7:30pm; Saturday, May 27 at 2:00pm & 7:30pm & Sunday, May 28 at 1:00pm at the Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach.

100 Aprils

ONE ARMENIAN, ONE TURK, ONE ROOM –
WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

“Your blondness has not served you the way we had hoped,” says a woman to her daughter, as a husband and father is dying of heart failure in a hospital bed. The line perfectly captures the old world and the new in a loaded barb that has no possible reply. It is absurdist yet emotionally revealing. I gasped a little when I heard it, in pleasure at the writing, but also with a bit of revulsion, as its ugliness landed on the blonde daughter. This is something she has likely heard before. It has the power still to wound but is not a surprise attack.

We are in a hospital room in 100 Aprils, the Rogue Machine’s world premiere at the Met Theatre. It is 1982. The Armenian Genocide of 1915 looms large in the mind of John as he dies, powering fevered dreams that turn his doctor of Turkish descent into a soldier, lurking menacingly as he denies the monstrous event that perhaps defined John’s life. It is certainly defining his death. John is a doctor himself, and an addict, in withdrawal from self-administered Demerol. His lungs are filling with fluid. There will be no recovery.

John cries out for his shot, but his wife, Beatrice, is clipped and unemotional. “There will be no more shots, John,” she says, closing the matter for discussion. He has a long history of forged prescriptions, stolen syringes, and trips to rehab. “I brought you a packet of Crystal Light,” she says, as if that is all she has left to give. She is bored by his confusion and exhausted from the effort of caring. It all seems distasteful to her — John’s torment, her daughter’s incompetence and emotionalism, and she seems uninterested in joining John in his outrage over the genocide. She has heard it all before.

Their daughter, Arlene, is a librarian who seems to believe she can tidy her father back into health. She washes pajamas, wipes up spills, and tries to escape the hospital room every chance she gets. She knits small squares in the waiting room. “A quilt for a mouse or a bug.” She has a child’s steadfast belief that her father might get better. His condescension toward her doesn’t feel as personal as her mother’s (John is condescending to everyone) but it makes her anxious. There must be something she can do. There is nothing.

John’s consciousness goes in and out of reality. At first, it seems his hallucinations are his alone, but then Beatrice shows up in one — or does she? She has a letter opener at the Turkish soldier’s throat. Is it John’s fantasy or hers? For that matter, is it a fantasy at all? It emerges that her connection to family history is every bit as strong as John’s. They remember the same cast of characters, the same jokes. The mother from the old country with the skin of an elephant and the eyes of a bear; the shoemaker father forced to go barefoot as he repairs the boots of Turkish soldiers; the suffering of all the dead ancestors.

Bitter and helpless, John attacks all Turks, including his doctor, for denying the genocide. “I see Turkish soldiers in the woods setting Armenian girls on fire!” “We Turks are used to Armenian lies,” the doctor (or is it the soldier?) sneers. “You bully us with your sorrow.” Beatrice and Arlene keep the doctor from administering the final dose of morphine that will allow John to die without pain. Suddenly they give John’s fury physical form, shocking us and themselves with their bottled-up passion

I love playwright Leslie Ayvazian’s use of language. She has many tart observations. John is “a dying man, not allowing himself to die, because he never allowed himself to live.” The doctor refers to Beatrice and Arlene as advocates. “At one time,” he says, “They were just called visitors. Times change.” And she gets at something I haven’t seen explored before, how even the righteous can become bored by their own tragedies. Someone must pay. Who? The Turks. Why? To provide “closure?” If they admitted all, would that ease the sense of loss or provide comfort to the grieving? Who are the survivors grieving anyway? Their loved ones or themselves? Victimhood as a community’s defining characteristic is a dead end. I think Ayvazian sees that, even as she commits to drawing attention to the suffering. The tragedy of John’s death has everything and nothing to do with being a child of genocide.

I feel that about my own communities — gay, Jewish, Latino — when we define our forebears as martyrs, we risk taking away their very humanity. The “right” way to balance respect for past horror with the pragmatism of moving on is often elusive and leaves one open to resentment for being alive.

Rogue Machine founding artistic director John Perrin Flynn is believable and touching as John, approaching the role with a simple, deep commitment. As Beatrice, the playwright does a memorable double act. Leslie Ayvazian speaks with droll, deadpan precision and moves with an insouciance worthy of Lauren Bacall. Her performance is a triumph.

Rachel Sorsa gives the bruised and flustered Arlene a poignance that serves the play well. I could do without her determined clomping on and off stage though. It only calls attention to the structural problem of creating scenes for two characters to be alone. Robertson Dean plays the doctor/soldier role of Ahmet with understated elegance and Janet Song makes the small role of a nurse into a small gem.Michael Arabian gets the style of the piece exactly right. Memories may be literal, but also flexible, hazy, and haphazard. There is a purposely tedious joke that is referred to a couple of times before becoming a rather touching end piece. It involves anthropomorphic pots and has a punch line that is apparently uproarious if you are from the Old Country, and impenetrable if you are not. Humor can be generational and culturally specific. Just like pain.

CLICK HERE FOR REVIEWS

100 Aprils: Reviews

Armenian genocide fuels Rogue Machine’s ‘100 Aprils’

LA TIMES:

The lies that have increasingly flowed into our post-truth era are terrifying stuff, to be sure. Arguably as painful are the omissions of fact — those stubborn denials of the undeniable that echo through the generations.

The refusal of the Turkish government to acknowledge the Armenian genocide of a century ago is the theme fueling Leslie Ayvazian’s play “100 Aprils,” a Rogue Machine production premiering at the MET Theatre.

Director, Michael Arabian approaches his material with his typical assurance in a well-paced, well-acted staging!
By F. Kathleen FoleyJun 22, 2018 | 6:00 AM 

“TOP TEN” Stage Raw  

RECOMMENDED:“Delivers a wry humor in spite of its broad tragic backdrop as it pursues its expression of what happens when people’s sense of justice is denied”

Reviewed by Deborah Klugman
Rogue Machine at The MET Theatre
Through July 16LA Splash:

“A powerful, intimate look at the effects of violence on a people….100 APRILS raises many issues worthy of serious discussion. 

Playwright Leslie Ayvazian’s 100 APRILS premieres in 2018 at Rogue Machine, just three years after the centennial commemoration of the Armenian genocide. First presented as a staged reading by Center Theatre Group and the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in April 2015, directed by Michael Arabian.  Here again, Arabian, has done a superb job!  

100 APRILS has been polished into a powerful, intimate look at the effects of violence on a people – even 100 years after the fact. When Adolph Hitler in 1939 asked who currently spoke about the extermination of the Armenians, he inadvertently opened a discussion about a denied history which was supposed to be gently dismissed from memory. And yet 2018 marks an anniversary about events which will never be over and done with for the people who survived or those they touched in life.

Stage and Cinema:
“I love playwright Leslie Ayvazian’s use of language. Michael Arabian (Director) gets the style of the piece exactly right…she gets at something I haven’t seen explored before”Stage and CinemaTheater Review: 100 APRILS (Rogue Machine Theatre in Los Angeles)

Aeschylus’s THE SUPPLIANT WOMEN (ΙΚΕΤΙΔΕΣ)

Firenze, installazione scarpe rosse in Palazzo Medici Riccardi contro a violenza sulle donne 2013-03-21 © Majlend Bramo/Massimo Sestini

The Getty Villa (Villa Theater Lab) and Rogue Machine Theatre Presents:

Aeschylus’s
THE SUPPLIANT WOMEN
ΙΚΕΤΙΔΕΣ

Translated by George Theodoridis

Directed by Michael Arabian
Produced by Michael Arabian, Joshua Bitton, and John Perrin Flynn

Date: Friday, November 17, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 18, 2017 at 3:00 and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 3:00 p.m.
Admission: Tickets: $7. Call (310) 440-7300 or click here.

Aeschylus’s The Suppliant Women, one of the oldest extant dramas from ancient Greece, is the first play and only surviving full text of the lost Danaid Tetralogy. The tetralogy was inspired by the myth of Io and her two warring sons, Aegyptus and Danaos. After Aegyptus usurps Danaos’s throne, the 50 sons of Aegyptus seek to possess the 50 daughters of Danaos by forced marriage. Danaos and his daughters reject the compulsory unions and flee to Argos for sanctuary, pursued by the Egyptians.

The Suppliant Women is also one of the earliest known stories of refugees. It is one of Aeschylus’s most poetic pieces, beautifully translated by renowned writer and translator George Theodoridis. In this remarkably timely production Argos becomes modern Greece and the daughters, wearing life jackets and arriving on overcrowded boats, become Syrian refugees. This ancient play has neither hero, nor downfall, nor even tragic conclusion. Instead, the play’s themes, still pertinent today, explore human rights, the continuing oppression of women, and societal reactions to refugees.

About the Director
Michael Arabian has directed and produced numerous West Coast and world premieres in New York and Los Angeles, winning over 50 awards. In Los Angeles, he is best known for his production of Waiting for Godot at the Mark Taper Forum in 2012 which was honored with five Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards, including Outstanding Production and Direction. It was also nominated for ten Ovation Awards, winning five, including Best Production.

In 2016 Arabian directed Disgraced at San Diego Repertory Theatre, which received a San Diego Critics Award nomination for Best Production, and Red starring John Vickery. Both shows made the San Diego CityBeat’s Top 10 list. He also directed Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, starring the dance icon Leslie Caron at the Laguna Playhouse and Staging the Unstageable (commemorating the centennial of the Armenian Genocide) at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Other productions at the Mark Taper include Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, Edward Albee’s The Sandbox, Harold Pinter’s A Slight Ache, and workshops of new works.

His site-specific company, Theatre InSite, formed a partnership with CBS (Radford) Studios (a first for L.A. theater), to produce live TV pilots (Third Rock from the Sun picked up) and inventive, large-scale productions, such as an updated production of Romeo and Juliet where audiences followed scenes and car chases through the backlot’s suburban streets, and The Trojan Women set during the Gulf War and staged in 400,000 gallons of water at the old Gilligan’s Island Lagoon site.

Arabian’s film King of the Ants, shot on 35mm film, is distributed by Vanguard Cinema.

About the Company
Rogue Machine Theatre was founded in 2008 as a performing arts organization to serve the greater Los Angeles community by developing and nurturing emerging playwrights, introducing important new contemporary works to Southern California, and engaging diverse audiences by presenting vital, invigorating productions. The company mirrors and examines contemporary culture as a theater of ideas and imagination.

This year, Rogue Machine Theatre (RMT) received the Polly Warfield Award for Outstanding Season from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, making it the only theater company to be given this award twice in the past sixteen years. The company is a recipient of the American Theatre Wing’s 2014 National Theatre Company Grant, awarded to select theater organizations for the development of new work and other significant contributions to the field of professional theater in the United States. World premieres have subsequently played off Broadway, in major regional theaters, and at the Donmar Warehouse in London. RMT has been nominated for the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and/or Ovation Awards Best Production in Los Angeles in six of the last seven years and has won each award three times. In addition, RMT has garnered more than 60 awards for direction, design, and acting. More information is available at RogueMachineTheatre.com.









The Money Fish

Money Fish


The Money Fi$h
Drama/True Story
Written and performed by John Cox

A young man with a difficult home life joins the military in search of family and discipline.  Eventually, he finds being an Army Airborne Ranger a bittersweet experience, so he turns his focus to the pursuit of money as a commercial fisherman in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

In the end, he learns the hard way that often what you want in life isn’t what you need.

Featured OCT. 01 – NOV 22, 2015
(extended through December 20, 2015)
The Hudson Theatres
click here for more information

 

L.A. Splash Review

Center Theatre Group / Kirk Douglas Theatre, ADAA Stage Genocide Event – Staging the Unstageable

Staging-the-Unstageable

Clockwise from top left: Ken Davitian, Karen Kondazian, Leslie Ayvazian, Sam Anderson, Christine Kludjian; Oscar-nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo; panel moderated by Steven Leigh Morris; cast of Neil McPherson’s ‘I Wish to Die Singing.’ (Photo: Craig Schwartz)

Clockwise from top left: Ken Davitian, Karen Kondazian, Leslie Ayvazian, Sam Anderson, Christine Kludjian; Oscar-nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo; panel moderated by Steven Leigh Morris; cast of Neil McPherson’s ‘I Wish to Die Singing.’ (Photo: Craig Schwartz)

 

LOS ANGELES—Center Theatre Group (CTG), one of the largest theatre companies in the nation, in partnership with the Armenian Dramatic Artists Alliance (ADAA), presented “Staging the Unstageable: The Esthetics of Dramatizing Atrocity” – an evening of celebrity play-readings and a panel – at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, on Tuesday, April 28, to a sold-out audience in observance of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

The evening was conceived by Pier Carlo Talenti, Director of New Play Development for CTG, and ADAA President, Bianca Bagatourian. The scenes were directed by Ovation-winning director, Michael Arabian.

The evening of remembrance, art, and activism featured excerpts from three plays that dramatize in different ways the Armenian Genocide – historically, artistically and politically — the Ottoman Empire’s attempt to purge its territories of its minority Armenian subjects and other non-Turkish people groups.

The plays included were: “15/15” by Leslie Ayvazian, back at CTG since her play “Nine Armenians” played at the Mark Taper in 1997; “Forgotten Bread” by Sevan Kaloustian Greene; and “I Wish to Die Singing – Voices from the Armenian Genocide,” by Neil McPherson, artistic director of the Finborough Theatre in London, where the play is currently in its world premiere production.

Oscar-nominated actress, Shohreh Agadashloo (“House of Sand and Fog”), began the evening playing the role of Turkish attorney Fethiye Cetin, putting the underlying tension of the historical context into full dramatic view, followed by Sam Anderson (“Different words for the same thing,” KDT), Leslie Ayvazian (“Nine Armenians,” Mark Taper Forum), Ken Davitian (“The Artist”), Michael Goorjian (“David’s Mother,” Emmy Award), Karen Kondazian (“The Rose Tattoo,” LADCC Award), Christine Kludjian and Hrach Titizian (“Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” Taper). Music was provided in intervals on the flute by critically-acclaimed flautist Salpy Kerkonian.

The powerful one-hour performance was followed by a panel after the intermission, with notable guests from the Los Angeles theatre scene including Jose Luis Valenzuela, Julie Marie Myatt, Michael Peretzian, and Greg Hittelman from the Washington DC genocide prevention organization, Enough! The group explored tactics to bring tragedies to the stage and asked whether theater can play a role in averting the next genocide. The discussion was moderated by LA Weekly theater critic, Steven Leigh Morris, and ended with a reception in the lobby.

ADAA also administers the $10,000 William Saroyan Human Rights Playwriting Award, for which the next deadline will be on April 24, 2017.