The Invisible Hand

By Ayad Akhtar, directed by Audrey Francis

An American banker has been taken hostage by an isolated militant group in Pakistan. When his ransom goes unpaid, his only hope is to trade on his expertise in international finance to earn his way to freedom. In an unsteady landscape of power and control, this geo-political thriller by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar asks just how free is the free market?

"a very smart piece of writing"
-Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune

"exciting and startling, and just perfect for the Steep setting"
-Kelly Kleiman, The Dueling Critics


Performance Schedule

Previews: September 29 - October 4, 2017
Press Opening: Thursday, October 5, 2017
Performances: October 5 - November 18, 2017
Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8pm
Sunday afternoons at 3pm (excluding 10/8 and 11/5)
Full Performance Calendar

Audio Description and a Touch Tour will be available on Sunday, October 28.
Open Captioning will be available on Saturday, November 4 at 3:00.
Contact us at or 773-649-3186 for more information or to reserve tickets.

Extended through November 18

Running Time: Two hours, ten minutes with one intermission

Production Sponsors: Julie & Roger Baskes and Ted Lowitz

Content Advisory: This production is intended for adult audiences. For more information about the content of this show, please click here.

Bassam Abdelfattah
Owais Ahmed
Anand Bhatt
Joel Reitsma*

Director – Audrey Francis
Stage Manager – Lauren Lassus**
Set Designer – Ashley Ann Woods
Lighting Designer – Meghan Erxleben
Sound Designer & Composer – Thomas Dixon**
Costume Designer  – Rachel Sypniewski
Props Designer  – Jamie Karas
Fight Choreographer – Almanya Narula
Dialect Coach – Sammi Grant
Dramaturg – Sonny Das
Assistant Director – Abhi Shrestha
Assistant Stage Manager – Serena Dully
Production Manager – Catherine Allen
Technical Director  – Brian Sprague

*Denotes Steep Company Member
**Denotes Steep Artistic Associate

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In the Press

"There are four actors; every one of them is superb. The play is exciting and startling, and just perfect for the Steep setting… I thought Invisible Hand was terrific – everybody should see it."
-Kelly Kleiman, The Dueling Critics

"... this is a very smart piece of writing..."
"... Bashir (the excellent Owais Ahmed) is a radicalized Londoner but an idealist at his core."
-Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune

"The play’s cascading revelations draw the audience into morally compromising logic. "
"The Invisible Hand is a suspenseful, plot-driven drama with a sobering message about the vulnerability of markets and the corruptibility of men."
-Hallie Palladino, Rescripted

"THE INVISIBLE HAND reminded me of the importance of theatre."
-Katy Walsh, The Fourth Walsh

"Director Audrey Francis's superlative cast, led by Joel Reitsma as the pathetic, contemptible Nick, make the two-hour affair consistently fascinating..."
-Justin Hayford, The Chicago Reader

"...not a moment in Akhtar’s script is anything less than gripping."
"...expect to marvel at the quality of the acting..."
-Amy Munice, Picture this Post

"The sound of U.S. drones in the background is so subtly woven into the play by designer Thomas Dixon that, at first, until the characters comment on them, you think they might be just some ambient effect from outside the theater."
-Alex Huntberger, Time Out Chicago

"Under Francis's direction, the company of four handles this play masterfully."
-Rachel Weinberg, Broadway World

Dramaturg's Notes

by Sonny Das

The United States of America has been embroiled with Pakistan’s political, military and economic development since the day Pakistan declared independence from Britain, on August 14, 1947. Indeed, that day President Harry S. Truman sent a celebratory message to Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the first Governor-General of Pakistan and Father of the Nation, which included the hope “The American people anticipate a long history of close and cordial relations with your country.” 

Unfortunately, while "close," relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have often been less then "cordial" over the last seventy years. Utilitarian, transactional, frustrating, and circumspect might be better words to describe this often dysfunctional relationship, even as there have been fleeting moments where the two nations’ interests and values have coincided.

Here are some electronic resources - articles, videos, interactive websites - where you can dig deeper into Pakistan’s history, Its people, Its relationship with America, and the international financial criminality which public and private institutions all over the world are enmeshed with these days.

The Double Game
A brilliant examination of “the unintended consequences of American funding in Pakistan” ten years after 9/11, by New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright.

Bhutto: The History of Pakistan
A brief video montage, adapted from the Independent Lens documentary BHUTTO, of the “pivotal moments” in Pakistani history through 2013.

A people's history of Pakistan
A beautiful and vibrant photoessay written this July, on the daily lives of ordinary Pakistanis.

Is Pakistan Willing to Lose America?
An op-ed written this August, by a former member of Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

How America is destabilizing Pakistan
A column from the British newsmagazine THE WEEK, written in 2011.

The Pakistan-American Alliance & Pakistan Perspective
Two essays written in the 1960’s for Foreign Affairs by army general, coup d’état leader, and Pakistan’s second president Mohammed Ayub Khan.

Pakistan: In The Line Of Fire
A timeline by PBS’s Frontline of the history of the nation told through the “powerful dynasties and complex geopolitics that have defined Pakistan.”

Pakistan: A history through posters, papers and assorted paraphernalia
A visual history of Pakistan through media and popular culture.

Money Laundering a Hypothetical Guide Part 1: The Basics
A short animated video on exactly what is says.

The Panama Papers
An amazing and comprehensive website created in responce to the 2016 financial scandal which exposed how embroiled banks, politicians, and the wealthy international elite were, through hidden offshore accounts, in wide-spread criminality, including a former Prime Minister of Pakistan.

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About The Invisible Hand

Steep Theatre’s 17th season will open this fall with the Chicago premiere of The Invisible Hand, by Ayad Akhtar, directed by Audrey Francis. Akhtar won the Pulitzer Prize for his play Disgraced, which premiered in 2012 at American Theatre Company in Chicago and later played on Broadway. The Invisible Hand opened at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, followed by productions at the New York Theatre Workshop and the Tricycle Theatre in London. The New York production earned Akhtar an OBIE Award for Playwriting and the Tricycle production scored an Olivier Award nomination for Outstanding Achievement. This production will mark Ms. Francis’ Steep directorial debut. She is both a Steppenwolf Ensemble Member and a co-founder of Black Box Acting and has directed with Chicago Dramatists, First Floor Theatre, and Pinebox Theatre.

The Invisible Hand will feature Bassam Abdelfattah, Owais Ahmed, Anand Bhatt, and Steep Company Member Joel Reitsma. Joel appeared in Steep’s Jeff Award winning production of Bobbie Clearly and Simon Stephens’ Motortown. Bassam, Owais, and Anand are making their Steep Theatre debuts.  

Season 17