Ayad Akhtar, master Muslim ironist

Fresh off a Pulitzer for Disgraced, Akhtar returns with a mordant play that explores similarities between free-market and Islamic fundamentalism.

Amitava Kumar in The Guardian:

ScreenHunter_904 Dec. 12 15.16Ayad Akhtar’s new play The Invisible Hand opened this week at the New York Theatre Workshop. When the lights come on, you see a man sitting in a chair while close to him stands a bearded guard with a Kalashnikov strapped to his back. The seated man is an American banker being held by jihadists somewhere near Karachi. In the opening scene, the prisoner is holding out his hands for the other man to clip his nails, which the latter accomplishes not without some tenderness.

If the 20th century was marked by travel – planes in flight – then the events of 9/11 ushered in the age of the burning aftermath. At least in the imagination of the west, the idea of free movement is now mocked by the nightmare of confinement. This is a specific fear: a dread vision of a man being held hostage by murderous zealots in an alien land, with beheading likely to follow.

The Invisible Hand plays with that familiar anxiety but surprises us with a different reality. Even a man hidden in a room is able to move money with the help of a mouse. As we discover in the play, the American banker must trade shares to earn his $10m ransom. In hiding he preaches the sermon of Bretton Woods: “Countries that can’t trade with one another go to war against each other”. The rest of the play is an exploration of the logic of the “free market” and its devastating impact in a country like Pakistan.

More here.