Josh Radnor, Gretchen Mol Open in Pulitzer Prize-Winning ‘Disgraced’ on Broadway: REVIEW



There is a chilling, heart-stopping moment at the height of Disgraced, Ayad Akhtar’s sharp and engrossing Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which opened on Broadway last night at the Lyceum Theatre. Once you recover from the shock of it, you’ll wonder how you allowed yourself to be so caught off guard.

Disgraced4Maybe you were busy admiring the seductive surfaces of director Kimberly Senior’s sleek, vivid production, getting wrapped up in the lives of the über smart, affluent and self-possessed thirty-somethings onstage, who seem to embody every astute, aspiring young person’s idea of That Perfect New York Life.

Amir (Hari Dhillon), a dapper corporate lawyer and second-generation Pakistani immigrant, and his wife Emily (Gretchen Mol), a thoughtful, blossoming visual artist, share an enviable, impeccably modern Manhattan apartment and cut a prime yet casual example of cross-cultural harmony. While Emily mines Islamic forms and aesthetic ideals in her latest work, Amir is a self-professed and often vocal apostate to Islam.

Disgraced2The drama begins when Amir’s nephew Abe (Danny Ashok) asks him to offer legal counsel to an imam imprisoned (falsely, Abe believes) on suspicion of funding Hamas. Amir strongly resists stepping in, while Emily urges him to help. Fast-forward several weeks when Emily has a shot at being included in a show at the Whitney. The curator Isaac (Josh Radnor), husband to a close colleague of Amir’s, Jory (Karen Pittman), visits to view Emily’s work. Jump ahead another few months to find the four friends gathering for an intimate dinner party.

Akhtar’s drama unspools a number of distinct threads that come together only in its explosive, compelling climax. Above all, it’s a play about ideas and appearances—intelligent, grounded people who think they know who they are and what they believe, until they don’t. The play raises provocative questions—about identity, race, faith, art, love and at times, the whole of human history. This is, of course, no small feat in 90 minutes and could easily go down like a giant pill.

DisgracedBut Akhtar’s characters are people you want to know, and uniformly excellent performances from the cast make you feel as though you already do. The heady and pressing questions that arise are firmly grounded in the very human and messy drama unfolded onstage. That they come from the mouths of characters so convincingly rendered makes them all the more haunting.

Senior, who also directed the play’s Off-Broadway premiere at Lincoln Center Theatre in 2012, does fine work balancing the Akhtar’s litany of nuanced perspectives on hot-button issues. For a drama so much about visual surfaces, the production’s design adds rich texture to the story, including the set by John Lee Beatty, costumes by Jennifer Von Mayrhauser and lighting by Kenneth Posner. 

In the time between the play's first production and its Broadway premiere, the context in which we hear and understand its core dilemma has changed dramatically, with renewed violence in the Middle East and racial tensions at home. Akhtar's drama certainly doesn't have the answers, but it asks the poignant questions.

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Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos: joan marcus)

Posted Oct. 24,2014 at 10:24 AM EST by in Naveen Kumar, New York, News, Review, Theatre | Permalink | Comments (1)

50 Cent To Headline At Cyndi Lauper's LGBT Youth Benefit Concert


The line up for Cyndi Lauper’s Home For the Holidays benefit concert have been announced and this year’s roster is shaping up to be rather interesting. For the past four years Lauper has produced the concert series in collaboration with her True Colors Fund, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about homeless, queer youth.

"I am astounded by the artists who continue to give of their time and talent each and every year and I am so excited by the line-up who are joining us in December,” Lauper exclaimed in a statement. “The concert plays such an important role in supporting the True Colors Fund's work to ensure that no young person is homeless again because of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

In addition to Salt-n-Pepa, Natalie Maines, and Sufjan Stevens, 50 Cent will lend his talents to this year’s show. Curtis Jackson, better known by his stage name, has a storied history of fending off rumors about his sexuality in addition to lashing out at the gay community.

In 2010 Jackson drew heat from Truth Wins Out over a series of tweets relating about oral sex that were interpreted as homophobic. Jackson suggested that men who do not perform oral sex on women should kill themselves, a message that particularly ill-timed considering that 19 year-old Tyler Clementi had recently killed himself after being publicly outed as gay.

“The other night I made a joke about a blow job,” Jackson explained. “My male followers enjoyed it. So I then went on to joke about women receiving the same.”

“[Somehow] they turned a simple joke about oral sex into a anti gay statement. I have nothing against people who choose and alternative life.”

In an interview with Playboy back in 2004, Jackson said:

"I ain't into fa**ots. I don't like gay people around me, because I'm not comfortable with what their thoughts are. I'm not prejudiced. I just don't go with gay people and kick it - we don't have that much in common. I'd rather hang out with a straight dude. But women who like women, that's cool."

Home For the Holidays will take place on December 6th.

Posted Oct. 24,2014 at 9:59 AM EST by in 50 Cent, Cyndi Lauper | Permalink | Comments (12)

Neil Patrick Harris Dishes on Gone Girl's Nude Sex Scene and His Teenage Three-Way Kiss: VIDEO


Neil Patrick Harris stopped by Conan last night to promote Gone Girl and his new Choose Your Own Autobiography.

On filming the movie's "extensive" sex scene:

Honestly I was more concerned with Rosamund Pike because we were having sex in the scene so I just wanted to make sure she, in her own state of disrobedness felt comfortable and didn't feel weird...and make sure no one really saw my wang.

Harris also shared a childhood story featured in his book about his older brother arranging to have him in a three-way kiss with two girls. 

"In hindsight wierdly, using angles, both of their tongues were in my mouth but my tongue was between their cheeks...so I think it was super-fun for me and kind of disgusting for the two of them."


Continue reading "Neil Patrick Harris Dishes on Gone Girl's Nude Sex Scene and His Teenage Three-Way Kiss: VIDEO"

Posted Oct. 24,2014 at 9:34 AM EST by in Neil Patrick Harris | Permalink | Comments (6)

Rep. Steve King Doesn't Expect to Meet Gays In the Afterlife, Should He Make It to Heaven: VIDEO


Anti-gay Republican Representative Steve King has said he doesn’t expect gay people to make it to heaven, reports Think Progress.

Speaking to The Jefferson Herald about attempts by Pope Francis to make the Catholic Church more welcoming to LGBT people, Iowa rep King - also a noted racist - said:

“I’ll just say that what was a sin 2,000 years ago is a sin today, and people that were condemned to hell 2,000 years ago, I don’t expect to meet them should I make it to heaven. So let’s stick with that principle.”

Noting that its not his place to judge other people, King nonetheless judged “those who choose a lifestyle that I’ll say is not one that’s anointed and favored by my faith — or their faith, for that matter.” 

King has previously described homosexuality as “self-professed behavior” and claimed that gay people wanting to get married are "promoting the idea of desecrating the Eucharist."

Watch King hold forth last August on the Missouri riots and "the wave of illegal immigrant children that will be going to school in the U.S.", AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Rep. Steve King Doesn't Expect to Meet Gays In the Afterlife, Should He Make It to Heaven: VIDEO"

Posted Oct. 24,2014 at 9:08 AM EST by | Permalink | Comments (25)

Nigerian Court Dismisses Challenge to Powerful Anti-Gay Law


On Wednesday, Nigeria's federal court dismissed a challenge to the nation's powerful anti-gay law, the Anti-Same Sex Marriage act, signed into law January 2014 by President Goodluck Jonathan.

As David Mixner wrote earlier this year, "Not only does the law ban marriage equality but also any LGBT relationship. If discovered, gay couples will be sentenced to fourteen years in jail. That is bad enough. However, it also provides for ten years in jail for forming any LGBT organization or supporting the formation of one. The law criminalizes even meetings between homosexuals."

AlimiThe court tossed the case out because they said the person who brought the case could not prove he was effected by it — the man in question does not live in Nigeria and is married to a woman with wife and children. His name is Teriah Joseph Ebah, 42, and he's lived the last 14 years in the UK. Said Ebah to Buzzfeed News: “I decided I wasn’t going to accept a Nigeria that was discriminatory.” His official complaint cites a violation of human rights protections of Nigerian Law.

On the bright side, Buzzfeed reports, this may not be such a setback for Nigerian LGBT activists as you might expect. They say Ebah brought the case independent of them without consulting them. Buzzfeed quotes Nigerian activist Bisi Alimi (pictured), who says the dismissal “opens a better door for us to challenge the law."

[photo via Facebook]

Posted Oct. 24,2014 at 8:41 AM EST by in Bisi Alimi, Discrimination, Gay Rights, News, Nigeria | Permalink | Comments (2)

LGBT Hate Crimes Bill Advances in Philly As Statewide Bill Stalls in Harrisburg

Mixed news out of Pennsylvania this week as the city of Philadelphia moved forward with a bill adding LGBT protections to hate crimes laws while a similar, statewide bill stalled in committee at the capitol in Harrisburg. 

Philadelphia Gay News reports:

BrownThe Public Safety Committee of Philadelphia City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed Bill 140720, which adds a new chapter to the Philadelphia Code to provide for additional penalties for criminal conduct motivated by hatred regarding sexual orientation, gender identity and disabilities.

The bill, sponsored by Councilmembers Blondell Reynolds-Brown and Jim Kenney, was scheduled to receive a first reading before the full Council on Thursday. Then, the public will be given a week to submit comments before a second reading will occur and a final vote can be taken.

Given that the bill passed from the committee with a favorable recommendation, Reynolds-Brown said she was optimistic her colleagues will approve the legislation.

“I feel positive it will pass in every way — absolutely,” she said. “The state has run into a brick wall. Given the testimony we have heard today, and the very insightful questions that were raised, I am confident that it will move to the mayor’s desk and become law.”

In Harrisburg, meanwhile, legislators failed to bring Rep. Brendan Boyle's bill up for a last minute House vote this week. PGN reports only once scheduled session day remains (November 12) and it not been announced yet if lawmakers will even meet that day. 

A December court date has been set for the three suspects charged in the September 11 attack on a gay couple in Center City, Philly that catalyzed these efforts to amend the state and local hate crimes laws. 

Posted Oct. 24,2014 at 8:22 AM EST by in Hate Crime, News, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia | Permalink | Comments (1)

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