a kite chaser | 2 hours 30 minutes | Hayes Theater, 240 West 44th Street | 212-239-6200
Adapting a novel for the stage is a noble undertaking; a healthy culture should be eager to translate its new (or classic) narrative into other media.I’ve seen Dostoevsky’s theatrical version demon (twice), Fitzgerald’s the great gatsby (Verbatim in the marathon masterpiece Elevator Maintenance Service) and others – many in new Yorktheater workshop. While popular fiction is often drawn to movies or streaming series, turning fiction into a live performance is still controversial. a kite chaser, Long story short, this argument is not made very strongly.
Familiar with the 2003 best-selling novel and 2007 film adaptation, Khalid Hosseini’s tear-jerking fable begins in 1970s Afghanistan and ends in USA circa September 11, 2001. It traces a boy’s tragic betrayal of a friend and the narrator’s redemption decades later. Amir Arison is the son of Baba (Faran Tahir), a wealthy widower businessman in Kabul (I wouldn’t say “only”). Their longtime domestic servants are Ali (Evanzes) and his obedient son Hassan (Eric Syracian). Amir and Hassan form a close bond, playing together, climbing poplar trees and reading stories. Along the way, we’ve learned more than just lessons separating the two. The Amirs are Pashtuns, the historically dominant Sunni Muslim ethnic group in Afghanistan, while Hassan is a Hazara from the Shiite branch of Islam.
The innocent friendship between master and servant comes under hateful scrutiny by Assef (Amir Malaklu), a Pashtun teen who taunts and bullies boys, eventually sexually assaulting Hassan – Amir witnessed the act in hiding, but did nothing to stop it. This is the original central wound of the story – the rest of the narrative revolves around it as our guilty narrator fumbles for forgiveness. History drives the story in the form of the 1979 Soviet invasion, which brought Amir and his father to immigration status in San Francisco. Dad switched from wealth and privilege to working at the gas station. Amir follows his dream of becoming a writer, goes to college, falls in love with fellow immigrant Soraya (Azita Ghanizada), and finally returns to Afghanistan to confront his past and atone for his betrayal of Hassan.
If that sounds like two and a half hours of unbearably voluminous stories, it doesn’t have to be. Any script distilled from a 400-page book will cause narrative fatigue. But clever playwrights know how to condense and find the form dictated by the content. The traditional drama of naturalistic scenes unfolding over the decades, with the dust of memory game narratives – à la glass zoo– This would be a viable option. heritage There was a far less compelling story a few seasons ago that dragged on two full scripts. Movies usually tell such epic stories better. Another tactic is harsh, but often effective: chalking up the source to a masterful performance of multi-role solo performances, summons, avatars, and exorcisms.
Instead, adapter Matthew Spangler opted for an unsatisfactory hybrid solution. His script is a lengthy monologue (masterfully steered by Arison) nested in a series of dramatic skits, storytheater style, by an ensemble that revolves around the protagonist on a minimal modular stage.The advantage of this method is that looks Drama, and the emphasis on novel melodrama, are often the shortcomings of harsh prose. “It rarely rains in summer in Kabul,” Amir tells us (taken from the book). “But it rained the night Dad took Ali and Hassan to the bus station.” This stale contraption often appears in novels and movies: raindrops suggest sadness. Are we surprised when dad cries seconds later? Elsewhere, Spangler’s account of Amir emphasizes themes or emotional states that are evident in the context. “I could feel her emptiness, as if a living thing had crept into our marriage,” Amir explained of Soraya’s inability to conceive a child (copied again from the source). Fiction readers might swallow such signposts, but on stage, the thematic hands hold the grille, especially in the longer and over-the-top second act.
Then there’s the cartoon gay scare that fueled Hussein’s drama engine. Assef is the novel’s main villain, an Islamo-fascist pervert, who primarily serves to polish the narrator’s tense heroism through contrast. Neither Hassan nor his tormentors developed into anything resembling rich or complex characters. They are props to our hero’s painful journey of self-forgiveness.
Director Giles Croft and a talented cast of Middle Eastern actors work valiantly to keep our attention, even as the script slips in the second half. Tall, broad-shouldered and charismatic, Amir Arison framed his movements with grace and humor. Dariush Kashani is an excellent vocal chameleon, transitioning from an Afghan to an American accent, full of energy. As Amir’s reckless father, Tahir paints a stately portrait of angry masculinity that evolves into wisdom and sweetness. Ghanizada provides the voice of a popular woman as Amir’s level-headed wife who has escaped from her own demons.
Like me, theatergoers learn a little about kite racing. As a kid, I always thought of kites as a treat, not a fight. But boys will be boys. The title refers to Hassan’s uncanny talent for guessing where a snipped kite will land and be caught as a prize.I hope a kite chaser Just such a precious trophy. While Broadway welcomes cast work of Middle Eastern ancestry and brightens up non-Western environments, I fear in the end it’s too windy and not enough strings.
Buy tickets here.