|Ian Merrill Peakes &|
Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar has written a political thriller that is being presented by Theatre Exile at Studio X (1340 S. 13th Street) through June 5. Thanks to Akhtar’s razor sharp script, superb acting by a small ensemble cast and the booming electronic sounds that accompany each blackout and new scene, this production is brilliant. Nick (Ian Merrill Peakes) is an American banker who is imprisoned in Pakistan by an Islamic militant group that doesn’t like the American banks. Knowing no one will pay his $10,000,000 ransom, Nick, a savvy financier, strikes a bargain to earn his freedom by trading in the international market. Since he is not allowed to touch a computer, one of his captors, Bashir (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh), makes the trades as Nick instructs him. Nick explains, “The free market is guided by self-interest called ‘the invisible hand’. You just have to know what everyone needs.” There are many short scenes ending in a blackout with character or furniture changes, always accompanied by the electronic blasts. This keeps everyone on the edge of their seats. This is not to say there is no humor. In one day’s trading Bashir had made quite a bit of money and Nick wants him to sell. He is disinclined to do so. Nick, furious at his greed, yells, “Bears do well in a Market and so do Bulls but Pigs gets slaughtered”…to which Bashir replies, “Not in Pakistan.” J Paul Nicholas portrays the Iman who is the titular leader of the Islamic group but absolute power can be removed absolutely as seen when Bashir dons the Iman’s robes. Anthony Mustafa Adair portrays Dar, who is originally the only one connected to Nick but becomes a shadow of himself by the end of the play. Bashir learns the market very well from Nick and makes a fortune on his own while causing riots in the streets. Terrorism, no matter what banner it carries is wretched and those caught in its web, whether perpetrators or victims, are forever changed. Perhaps this is one of the many truths Akhtar has tried to portray. For more information or tickets, call 215-218-4002 or visit online at theatreexile.org.