This has been a really big season for Ayad Akhtar, who unexpectedly won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama two seasons ago for his gripping race relations drama “Disgraced.”
In addition to “Disgraced” finally landing on Broadway, two of his newer works have received Off-Broadway productions. Though neither ranks with “Disgraced,” it is clear that Akhtar has a strong voice and a keen eye for inter-cultural issues.
In “The Invisible Hand,” an American banker (Justin Kirk) is kidnapped by Islamic terrorists in Pakistan, who are angry at his boss at Citibank. As he sits in an empty prison cell, drones are roaming the nearby streets and explosions can be heard.
Realizing that his captors’ $10 million ransom demand is unrealistic, he comes up with an extremely unusual proposition: allow him to raise the money himself through electronic trading via laptop.
Although the concept is intriguing and the ending has a chilling irony, “The Invisible Hand” strains in trying to be a hostage drama, an action thriller, a black comedy and a point-by-point lecture on international economics all at once.
Even so, Ken Rus Schmoll’s production is well-staged, and the performances are lively. Usman Ally makes a strong impact as a London-born militant who retreated to Pakistan, combining a harsh facade with an envy for his prisoner’s skill.
“The Invisible Hand” plays through Jan. 4 at New York Theatre Workshop. 79 East 4th St., nytw.org.