Review of The Invisible Hand
By Ayad Akhtar
Directed by Jasson Minadakis
For tickets / schedule :
Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley
RUN: June 2-26, 2016
RATING: 5 of 5 stars
(June 3, 2016)
Harsh brick walls punctuated by a lone barred window overshadows two men huddled in earnest conversation. Young banker Nick Bright (Craig Marker) was mistaken for a higher executive and dragged from his car for ransom by Pakistani extremists. Ayad Akhtar’s nuanced depiction of Nick’s captors shows us relatable, flawed human beings who struggle with universal issues. The Invisible Hand is instantly compelling, augmented by Chris Houston’s sound design that plunges the audience into the dusty streets of Pakistan. Frantic to save his life, Nick pleads that his expertise in the stock market is invaluable. Intrigued by the idea of an easy ten million, Imam Saleem (Barzin Akhavan) agrees, setting the clever, though volatile Bashir (Pomme Koch) to work with the prisoner. Tension builds to intense trading, setting hearts racing with anticipation. As profits grow, characters struggle with desires, duty, and corruption.
In this intimate thriller, the West is stripped of its glamor; one group profits, while another suffers from food shortage as a result of a get rich quick scheme. Bashir points out that the post-WWII Bretton Woods financial system may have caused the U.S. dollar to become the center of world trade, dooming currencies such as the rupee. The captors are an uncomfortable mix of reasonable men and violent aggressors, vacillating between the two in a terrifying manner.
The cast is riveting, all the more impressive since 40% of the script was changed mere weeks earlier, including most of the second act, due to revisions from Akhtar based on the early run of his play. The actors do not falter, maintaining a high level of concentration and coiled energy lashing out in dramatic moments. Pomme Koch’s Bashir is well educated with a deep-seated passion for learning, challenged by his immutable belief that Western greed is destroying his country. The harangued guard Dar (Jason Kapoor) is a kind, generous soul caught up in a war he is not sure of. He exemplifies those who want to live their lives in peace with their families, but are not given that choice, and do the best with what they have. Barzin Akhaan’s Imam Saleem is disturbing beneath his charming veneer, his story unexpected in its conclusion. Craig Marker as Nick Bright is engrossing; the banker moves from haughty demands to barely contained madness throughout the play in a spectacular performance.
Jasson Minadakis has directed a masterpiece of suspense at Marin Theatre Company. Middle East tensions continue to rise, and works such as this one are instrumental in demystifying the causes. The Invisible Hand transports us to a world floundering in corruption. Was it caused by indifferent Western business practices? Join this talented cast to decide for yourself.