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“Bon appétit!” The festive phrase announcing the start of a meal sounds more like a bell signaling another round in a prizefight when it is chirped by Gretchen Mol, playing a hostess whose dinner party has become a verbal jousting tournament in Ayad Akhtar’s terrific, turbulent drama “Disgraced.”
By this point in the play, which opened at the Lyceum Theater on Thursday night, the nerves of everyone settling down to eat have been scraped raw. It’s hard to concentrate on your fennel and anchovy salad when the conversation over cocktails has descended into a fierce debate about the rise of Islamic terrorism and the basic tenets or the meaning of the Quran.
From left, the filmmaker Musa Syeed; the memoirist and graphic novelist G. Willow Wilson and the playwright Ayad Akhtar.American Identity, Muslim Identity OCT. 24, 2014
Heidi Armbruster and Aasif Mandvi as a married couple hosting a Manhattan dinner party in “Disgraced,” by Ayad Akhtar, at the Claire Tow Theater.Theater Review: ‘Disgraced,’ by Ayad Akhtar, With Aasif MandviOCT. 22, 2012
Mr. Akhtar’s play, which was first seen in New York in 2012 and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, has come roaring back to life on Broadway in a first-rate production directed by Kimberly Senior that features an almost entirely new cast. In the years since it was first produced here, the play’s exploration of the conflicts between modern culture and Islamic faith, as embodied by the complicated man at its center — a Pakistani-born, thoroughly assimilated New Yorker — have become ever more pertinent. The rise of the so-called Islamic State, and the news that radicalized Muslims from Europe and the United States have joined the conflict raging in Syria and Iraq, brings an even keener edge to Mr. Akhtar’s engrossing drama.