A Pulitzer Prize-winning play is going into its final weeks on Broadway. But the issues it raises will stay with us for some time to come. Anthony Mason talks with playwright Ayad Akhtar:
With his drama, "Disgraced," now on Broadway, Ayad Akhtar has had three plays produced on the New York stage within a year. "This is a dream come true," he said.
The Washington Post called the 44-year-old playwright "a dazzling new voice in American theatre."
"Disgraced," which premiered in Chicago three years ago, put Akhtar in the spotlight when it won the Pulitzer Prize.
"We never did the show for more than 100, 150 people, whether it was Chicago, Lincoln Center or London," said Akhtar. Now, on Broadway, "it's 900 a night. It's insane.""
All of Akhtar's plays confront perhaps the most polarizing issue of the day: the Muslim experience in America.
"For a lot of people to see or hear the word 'Muslim' is not too dissimilar to hearing the word 'Cancer," he said.
"So that's something you're up against as a playwright?" asked Mason.
"As a playwright, as a novelist, as a whatever," he replied. "Yeah, I am. But what am I gonna do about it? Keep telling really great stories and hopefully enough people catch on, and they're like, 'You know what? It's not about that. It's about something else, like being human.'"
The main character in "Disgraced," Amir, is a Pakistani American corporate lawyer trying to run from his Muslim roots:
Jory: "I had to read the Koran in college and what I remember is the anger."
Amir: "Thank you. It is like one very long hate-mail letter to humanity."
But in hiding his identity, he can't suppress his bitterness -- and a friendly dinner party disintegrates:
Isaac: "Did you feel pride on September 11th?"
Amir: "If I'm honest, yes."
Emily: "Honey, you don't really mean that."
Amir: "I was horrified by it, all right? Absolutely horrified."
Jory: "Horrified about what? About the towers coming down, about people getting killed?
Amir: "We were finally winning!"
Jory: " We?"
Amir: "You see, I forgot which 'we' I was."
Jory: "You're an American."
Amir: "It's tribal, Jory. It's in the blood. You have no idea how I was brought up. You have to work real hard to root that s--- out.
Jory: "Well, you need to keep working."
If critics were impressed, Akhtar admits some Muslims have complained: "I get a bum rap from a lot of folks in my particular community for 'airing dirty laundry,' as it were."
"You're writing about a highly-charged subject matter right now. Do you feel like you have to tiptoe around a lot of things?"