Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Invisible Hand: ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

What a concept, what a story. Ayad Akhtar's "The Invisible Hand" brings us into a difficult situation where bad or good mean nothing. The only things that matter are money and God, in that order.

"The Invisible Hand" is one of the guidelines of neoclassical economics -- that financial markets always tend towards equilibrium, guided by the "invisible hand" of thousands of competing transactions.

But sometimes this equilibrium can be upset, for just a moment, but enough time for a wise investor to profit. Craig Marker plays Nick Bright, a low-level Citibank executive working in Pakistan. He is kidnapped by a jihadi group headed by Bashir (Pomme Koch) and Imam Saleem (Barzin Akhavan). The jihadis demand a ten million dollar ransom, but Bright realizes his company will not consider him to be worth that much. Facing his imminent death, he convinces Bashir and Imam Saleem to allow him to teach them how to make that much money and more, simply by manipulating financial markets the way he does in his everyday life. All they need is a computer, internet access and Bright's expertise.

Of course, making money like this is anti-Islam. No matter. And no matter that Nick Bright warns his 'hosts' that money can corrupt anyone. The game is intoxicating. Once the ball starts rolling and the profits begin to accumulate, an unexpected series of events transpire.

Koch is the star here -- as the English-born Bashir, a jihadi whose hatred of the West is matched only by his thirst for knowledge, Bashir absorbs Nick's lessons and begins to use them himself. His associates, Imam Saleem and Dar (Jason Kapoor) lose control of Bashir as he begins to implement a spectacular and bloody scheme.

We have a small problem with Craig Marker -- who was absolutely brilliant in MTC's previous "Anne Boleyn" and is excellent here. But shouldn't he be nervous? Frightened? Nick Bright seems far more hostile than a prisoner would be. His attitude and physical self don't seem to change much as his incarceration continues, until the very end. A few tweaks may be in order here.

The lesson is unmistakable: money can seduce an imam, and God can still help out the western nonbeliever, in such unusual times.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Invisible Hand' Three Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE for Pomme Koch. He is so good that after the show was over, when the young actor came to the front of the stage to make a pitch for an MTC charity, using, of course, his real California voice, I was still afraid of him. I thought he might want to put a shackle on my leg.

There are no bad seats in this theatre. Feel safe buying the least expensive seat in the house.

"The Invisible Hand"
Marin Theater Company
397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley
EXTENDED Through July 3

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