For a few years now, Allen Nause has talked about staging “The Invisible Hand” in Portland, back when he was artistic director of Artists Repertory Theatre, back before playwright Ayad Akhtar’s “Disgraced” won a Pulitzer Prize for drama, and right after he returned from a theater tour in Pakistan.
His idea was to bring two Pakistani actors he’d met on the tour to Portland to play in Akhtar’s hostage drama, as a way to extend his mission to connect with the acting community there. And having Pakistanis playing Pakistani characters seemed like a good idea, too. But first visa problems washed out a scheduled run of the play. Then Akhtar’s Pulitzer landed, and the Pakistani-American playwright wanted to do some serious revisions of the play. The world premiere landed elsewhere, the actors from Pakistan never made it to town, and Nause embraced a freelance career as a director and actor, after retiring his artistic directorship at Artists Rep.
It’s a nice, sharp hostage thriller on the surface, but then it veers into the territory of political economics and deepens into something deliciously different. Pretty soon the audience, along with the terrorist Bashir (an enemy of the West and capitalism), is getting lessons in how futures work and selling short and the short history of how the American dollar became the globe’s dominant currency (thank you, or curse you, Bretton Woods). And finally what keeps the American dollar on top? The “invisible hand” of capitalism. So, right, a little metaphysics creeps in there, too.