By David Walters
Most everyone who reads this knows the story of The Kite Runner, either from the book (2003) or the movie (2007), of Amir (AMir Arison) who grows up motherless in affluent Kabul, Afghanistan, and must flee with his father with only two suitcases as the changing regimes make life for them no longer tolerable. Amir also carries with him a guilty past for the way he treated his childhood friend Hassan. This guilt bores a hole in his heart as he grows to manhood in America. He is finally given the chance to clear that guilt when a phone call from his past (“There’s a way to be good.”) brings him back to an Afghanistan now ruled by the Taliban. As a self-examining piece, it touches on privilege, loyalty, racism, class, immigration, war, and survival.
So, what makes this play, telling the same story as both the book and the movie, worth experiencing?
It is unequivocally just that, storytelling. And this story is strong, honest, universal, surprising, and heartfelt. It is simple, straightforward, unadorned, an actor alone in a spotlight with a few colorful costumes thrown in for atmosphere, not overshadowed by stagecraft. It is actor and text, clean and concise. A “Pull up a Broadway seat and I’ll tell you a story,” kind of thing. Not show you a story, present you a story, or perform for you a story. It’s not an extravaganza. It’s played by a fully embodied ensemble of eleven, doubling in multiple roles, that individually embrace their parts no matter how small, know how they contribute, where they fit in, and come together gloriously and appealing to the satisfaction of a full house.
It was a full house when I attended, and no one left after intermission (I always check). They rose together for a standing ovation to show their appreciation for the journey they had been taken on.
Is it the most incredible Broadway show you’ll ever see? No. The staging and set are not inspired. What they do though is service the inspired text, because that’s why we congregate in the theater. We congregate to hear our stories, to see and feel what it’s like to be alive, and to experience a deep human connection in both the heart and mind, something that we have all been lacking in a shared group setting as of late. Buy a ticket and you will get that at the Helen Hayes Theater.
Amir Arison as Amir, Faran Tahir as Baba, Danish Farooqi as Wali/Doctor, Azita Ghanizada as Soraya, Joe Joseph as Merchant/Russian Soldier, Dariush Kashani as Rahim Khan, Beejan Land as Kamal/Zama, Amir Malaklou as Assef, Eric Sirakian as Hassan/Sohrab, as Houshang Touzie as General Taheri, Evan Zes as Ali/Farid
Running time: 2.5 hours including one fifteen-minute intermission.
As always, this is just one man’s opinion in a world filled with them.