Seattle's ACT Theater opened Ayad Akhtar's new play The Invisible Hand on the thirteenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy. Interestingly, the play seems to jump out from the daily news. The playwright offers the following description of his work:
"A white American investment banker working in emerging markets in Pakistan gets kidnapped by a local extremist militia. The company he works for, Citibank, can't negotiate the ransom because it's against U.S. antiterrorism laws. The second in command [of the extremist group] is this young kid from London who is Pakistani and has moved back to Pakistan to fight against the corrupt government. He realizes their captive is a guy who has trading skills, so they put him to work to raise his own ransom.
Over the course of fourteen scenes, they wreak havoc on the Pakistani capital markets. It's a meditation on global finance and extremist militant religious politics and the destructive forces of globalization. I wouldn't say they're the same, but they have often similar effects even though they're coming from completely different ideology."
For me, The Invisible Hand was about the corruption that money, or the opportunity to gain lots of money, brings to even people with the best of intentions if they are not mindful of the full impact of their situation and the bigger picture. Even more interesting was the fact that the play was so very relevant to the military situation playing out on the world stage right now as President Obama once again chooses weaponry over what my mentor Buckminster Fuller labeled livingry.
Like the narrow view characters in The Invisible Hand, Obama continues to believe that power -- be it in monetary or military -- can conquer all the while ignoring the reality that we are all in this together living on a tiny fragile planet that has the resources to support all life. In the play, however, nobody really gets killed.
In the beginning the threat of beheading the investment banker just as had been the case with Daniel Pearl. When that line was being delivered, I fully expected the character to use the name of James Foley and Steven Sotloff. That's how relevant to today's news the play comes.
It's kind of like getting a behind-the-scenes look at what might really be happening in the Mid-East, and I have no doubt that it will leave audiences thinking and rethinking their beliefs.