Theatre Mirror Reviews-"The Kite Runner"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Sheila Barth


ĒThe Kite RunnerĒ

A Review By Sheila Barth

After reading Khaled Hosseiniís 2003 best-selling novel, ďThe Kite Runner,Ē I was enchanted by his exquisite language and enlightened about the Afghani culture and struggles.

Hosseini, son of an Afghan diplomat who moved to Paris, France with his family in 1976, and later settled in Northern California, traces the struggles of his people through decades of Soviet influence and invasion, rise of the Taliban insurgency, and clashes among the Afghani factions, separated by class and ethnicity.†

Todayís headlines punctuate the Middle East explosive tinderbox, with seemingly superficial causes igniting the massesí anti-American sentiments and destructive terrorist attacks, so the New England premiere of Matthew Spanglerís theatrical adaptation of ďThe Kite Runner,Ē presented by New Repertory Theatre, couldnít be more timely.† The book was also made into a movie in 2007.†

Hosseini is the consummate poet and storyteller, who highlights these hideous situations through reminisces of fictitious expatriate, Amir, spanning 30 years. Amirís story isnít scarred by warís brutality and ugliness, though, but rather by his self-guilt and his hope for inner peace and redemption.† In Spanglerís beautifully crafted adaptation, he has retained Hosseiniís lyrical language, his vivid imagery, and the storyís integrity on stage.

And accomplished director Elaine Vaan Hogue incorporates sensitivity, insight, and understanding here, leading this sterling crew and cast, some who deftly portray multiple roles, including Boston veteran Dale Place. Scott Fortier and Ahmad Maksoud. † Nael Nacer is spellbinding as narrator-lead character Amir. He not only tells his story, but relives his privileged childhood, standing near, behind, and in front of his childhood image, whom likable 23-year-old New York actor Fahim Hamid portrays with boyish petulance. The green shirts child and adult Amir wear represent Afghanistanís national color. Itís also symbolic of young Amirís jealousy of his poor servant friend, Hassan, whom Amirís wealthy merchant father, Baba, treats equally. Baba is a Pashtun, or member of the privileged sect, while Ali and Hassan are lowly Hazara.

Amir realizes he is a disappointment to his virile, brave father, whom veteran actor Ken Baltin brilliantly portrays. Local legends abound about Babaís fighting a bear with his bare hands, his winning Kabulís highly competitive kite contest, and other tales of his bravery.† Amir, whose mother died shortly after his birth, prefers to read books and write poetry instead of playing soccer or other physical activities.†

Hassan (Luke Murtha) and his father, Ali, (Johnnie McQuarley), Babaís longtime friend and loyal servant, are scorned and treated as second-class citizens. As time goes by and Afghanistan is overrun by Soviet troops, followed by its own insurgents - mainly the Taliban - the rift between Pashtuns and Hazara widens. So does Amirís jealousy for Hassan, who bravely and unconditionally loves and protects him.†

After the two boys win the citywide kite contest, Amir witnesses Hassanís being brutalized by bullies, but he does nothing to help his friend. His guilt suffocates him, causing him to lie and commit an egregious act that destroys Ali and Hassanís lives forever. Thirty years later, Amir learns shocking facts about their interrelationship, which ultimately provide his opportunity for redemption and inner peace.

As Murtha is sweet, docile, loving and trusting as Hassan and also Hassanís abused son, Sohrab, John Zdrojeski as their foil, childhood bully-turned-bloodthirsty-Taliban leader Assef, is tauntingly cruel. Violence-fight designer Robert Najarian, (who also portrays a few roles), has created heart-stopping, hand-to-hand combat and other violent scenes, which Vaan Hogue thoughtfully tempers.†

David Reiffelís sound effects, Mary Ellen Stebbinsí dramatic lighting, and Paul Tate dePoo IIIís dark, war-tinged set create marvelous transitions from Amirís peaceful neighborhood, to wartorn streets, Amir and Babaís terrifying escape to bordering Pakistan in a rickety, overcrowded truck, then to sunny, hippy-go-happy California, and back to Pakistan and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Not all scenes are morbidly dramatic. Several are uplifting and happy, such as Amir and Hassanís competing and winning the kite competition. Colorful kites swirl and fly on stage and in the aisles, above the audience.† And Amirís shy, respectful courtship with lovely Afghani Soraya (Paige Clark) in a San Jose, Calif. flea market, and their wedding, under a green canopy, are touching. Adrienne Carlileís costumes and Frederick Williamsí musical renderings also add to this must-see play.

BOX INFO: Two-act play, based on Khaled Hosseiniís best-selling novel, and adapted by Matthew Spangler, presented by New Repertory Theatre through Sept. 30, in the Charles Mosesian Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown: †Sept. 19,20,and 27, at 7:30 p.m.; Sept, 21,22,28, and 29, at 8 p.m.; matinees, Sept. 22,29, at 3 p.m. Sept. 23,30 at 2 p.m. Post performance talkbacks, Sept. 23,30, following the 2 p.m. show. Tickets, $28-$58; discounts for seniors, students, and groups of 10-more. Call the Box Office at 617-923-8487.†

BOX INFO: Two-act play, based on Khaled Hosseiniís best-selling novel, and adapted by Matthew Spangler, presented by New Repertory Theatre through Sept. 30, in the Charles Mosesian Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown: †Sept. 19,20,and 27, at 7:30 p.m.; Sept, 21,22,28, and 29, at 8 p.m.; matinees, Sept. 22,29, at 3 p.m. Sept. 23,30 at 2 p.m. Post performance talkbacks, Sept. 23,30, following the 2 p.m. show. Tickets, $28-$58; discounts for seniors, students, and groups of 10-more. Call the Box Office at 617-923-8487.†

"The Kite Runner" (19 - 29 September)
NEW REPERTORY THEATRE
@ ,Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, WATERTOWN MA
1(61)-923-8487

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |