One of North America’s hottest playwrights, Ayad Akhtar, sees another of his plays on a Vancouver stage as Pi Theatre presents the Canadian premiere of The Invisible Hand this Apirl.
Last seen in September with a critically acclaimed production of his Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced at the Arts Club, this 2012 penned play examines how far we will go to survive, and the consequences of the choices we make.
The Invisible Hand tells the story of the kidnapping of a successful financial trader at the hands of an Islamic militant group. Seeing no other way out, the kidnapped banker agrees to an unusual plan to effect his release.
“On the surface the play is about this kidnapped American banker who comes up with the idea to earn his own ransom by working the stock market, but thematically it is more about the intersection of terrorism and global financial systems,” says Pi Theatre’s artistic director Richard Wolfe, who also directs.
Referring to it as a morality play, Wolfe goes on to say that it is also very much an exploration of what money does to us when our very lives are at stake. For Bright though that central question takes on a bigger meaning as he unwittingly hands the tools for financial chaos and political vindication to his captors.
As with his previous work, The Invisible Hand sees this all transpire through Akhtar’s lens as a Pakistani American.
“I think that is exciting because the question of Muslim identity in contemporary society is pretty compelling right now,” says Wolfe.
For those looking for Akhtar to fall decisively on either side of the terrorist equation though should look elsewhere.
“In this play, the characters are neither fully good nor fully bad people,” says Wolfe. “It’s actually very hard to hear the voice of the playwright in the script which is a good thing. Polemic is one thing, and it can be interesting, but storytelling fiction has its own strengths as well.”
Embracing the idea that The Invisible Hand will pose more questions than it has answers, Wolfe and his team at Pi Theatre are once again extending their reach beyond the stage with a series of ancillary events.
“We want Pi to use theatre as a way of energizing people’s curiosity,” says Wolfe.
Already having hosted an evening of Middle Eastern music as one step in exploring Middle Eastern culture up to the premiere of The Invisible Hand, the company will also host a panel discussion at SFU downtown on March 31. The panel will delve further into an exploration of the connections between the global financial system and terrorism.
“I read somewhere recently that the role of theatre is to frame and lead discussion, and that is a big part of what we do at Pi,” says Wolfe. “The intent is not to answer a bunch of questions, but to ask them and allow an opportunity to discuss them.”
Ayad Akhtar’s The Invisible Hand plays The Cultch (1895 Venables St, Vancouver) from April 5-23. Visit https://thecultch.com for tickets and information.