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Opening Night:
June 16, 2014
June 27, 2014

Theater: Claire Tow Theater / 150 West 65th Street, New York, NY, 10023


From Ayad Akhtar, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of Disgraced, comes a thrillingly fierce and funny new play about identity, religion and the contradictions that make us who we are. Brilliant Pakistani-American writer Zarina is focused on finishing her novel about women and Islam when she meets Eli, a young convert who bridges the gulf between her modern life and her traditional heritage. But when her conservative father and sister discover her controversial manuscript, they are all forced to confront the beliefs that define them. A passionate and searing look at a family divided by faith, bonded by love and searching for truth in contemporary America.

  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF The Who and the What

    The Shadow of the Patriarch
    ‘The Who & the What’ Examines Faith and Family

    Charles Isherwood

    June 16, 2014: Matters of faith and family, gender and culture are stirred together into a fiery-flavored stew in The Who & the What, the probing new play by Ayad Akhtar that opened on Monday at the Claire Tow Theater at Lincoln Center. Like Mr. Akhtar’s Disgraced, which won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize and will be seen on Broadway this fall, this new work considers the itchy frictions that emerge when religious belief and contemporary life rub up against each other, as they do for the family at the center of the play, a Pakistani immigrant and his two grown daughters. In this case, a novel that attempts to humanize the prophet Muhammad ignites an ugly rift that threatens to rip the family permanently apart. As the play opens, Zarina (Nadine Malouf), a Harvard graduate, has become bogged down in her attempts to start a new book about “women and Islam.” She put her personal life aside, after breaking up with her fiancé, when her father, Afzal (Bernard White), a devout Muslim, persuaded her not to marry outside the faith.

  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF The Who and the What

    'The Who & the What': Theater review

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    June 16, 2014: The daughter of a Pakistani immigrant writes what she knows — and what she knows will hurt her father. That’s the premise of Ayad Akhtar’s smart and taut, but familiar, drama The Who & the What at LCT3, housed at the Claire Tow Theater at Lincoln Center. It’s the same theater where the writer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2012 play, Disgraced,” set to open on Broadway in September, premiered. Afzal (Bernard White) is a widower who moved to Atlanta, drove a cab and eventually became the owner of a fleet of taxis. He’s also raised two bright, American-born daughters. Zarina (Nadine Malouf) is an Ivy-educated author who’s at a standstill in her book about “gender politics” and the unfair veil over Islamic women. Mahwish (Tala Ashe) wants to marry her longtime boyfriend but can’t wed until her big sis does, per Muslim tradition.

  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF The Who and the What

    The Who & the What

    Zachary Stewart

    June 16, 2014: Polite society often entails a certain amount of organized terror. It governs what we say, how we dress, and whom we're allowed to marry. Ayad Akhtar digs deep into this terror (and suggests how it can be combated) in his new play The Who & the What,, now making its New York premiere at LCT3's Claire Tow Theater. Akhtar earned the Pulitzer Prize for drama for his last play at LCT3, Disgraced, which recently announced a Broadway run. The Who & the What has all the transgressive intelligence of that earlier play, but allows more time for the drama to percolate, resulting in a truly explosive climax. On top of that, it's also quite funny. Afzal (Bernard White) is living the American dream. Originally a humble immigrant from Pakistan, he now owns 30 percent of all the taxicabs in Atlanta. He also has two beautiful daughters from his late wife. Mahwish (Tala Ashe) is a nurse-in-training engaged to her childhood sweetheart, Haroon. Zarina (Nadine Malouf) is a Harvard-educated novelist working on a book about women in Islam. A conservative Muslim, Afzal tries to set Zarina up with Eli (Greg Keller), a local Imam and Muslim convert.


    'The Who & the What': Theater Review

    Frank Scheck

    June 16, 2014: Playwright Ayad Akhtar follows up his 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced (scheduled for a Broadway run this fall) with another exploration of Muslim Americans wrestling with the culture clash between traditional Islamic beliefs and modern American society. But while his previous play—about a Pakistani-American lawyer who finds his hard-earned efforts at assimilation suddenly falling apart—crackled with a sustained tension, The Who & the What suffers from a tonal imbalance in which its attempts at comic relief detract from its undeniably relevant and powerful themes. Despite its provocative premise and often witty dialogue, the play never quite coheres in sufficiently compelling fashion. The play begins lightheartedly as we're introduced to widowed patriarch Afzal (Bernard White) and his two grown daughters Mahwish (Tala Ashe) and Zarina (Nadine Malouf). Afzal is the highly successful owner of an Atlanta taxicab company whose ubiquitous ads have made him a local celebrity. Traditionalist-minded Mahwish is eager to get married, but feels compelled to wait until her older sibling does so first.

  • TALKIN' BROADWAY REVIEW OF The Who and the What

    The Who & The What Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

    Matthew Murray

    June 16, 2014: When it comes to stories about major religious figures, which is truer, the fact or the fiction? Though this question may appear simple, it's not, as Ayad Akhtar details with his new play The Who & The What, which just opened in an LCT3 production at the Claire Tow Theater at Lincoln Center. Given enough years, or perhaps eons, of retelling and relating, folklore might come to mean far more than the truth, which is naturally going to be an enormous problem for someone who's more interested in that. That someone, in this case, is Zarina (Nadine Malouf), a 32-year-old Arab-American woman who's struggling to live a more liberal Muslim life in her family's conservative Atlanta household. Her wealthy father, Afzal (Bernard White), owns 30 percent of the city's taxis, and her sister, Mahwish (Tala Ashe), is 25 years old and ready to wed her childhood boyfriend, Haroun, though Zarina still being single poses something of a problem for Dad. Not that Zarina agrees with him, about that or pretty much anything else.



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