San Jose Rep presents….

I loved Khaled Hosseini’s novel, THE KITERUNNER and I could not imagine how San Jose Rep could possibly condense it into a two hour theatrical production. But they did more than shorten the story, they managed to create a unique entity that in many ways was stronger than the book because of its visual impact and because it zeroed in on the message without all the description and explanation we expect in an epic novel such at THE KITERUNNER.
Playwright Matthew Spangler did an amazing thing: he managed to take out the histrionics that gave the book a soap opera flavor and fashion a compelling, intensely human drama with universal appeal. All of us suffer guilt when we forsake a friend. All of us want our parents to accept us. And all of us know in our hearts when we have not been as moral as we should be to those who love us. We want to feel we have earned the respect we receive and when we know we are less that we appear, we are plagued with remorse.
The story is told through the lives of two boys growing up in Kabul in the same household, but in two very different worlds. Amir (Barzin Akhavan) is the son of a wealthy and successful businessman with pride in his accomplishments and meticulous in his duty to live an honorable, and valuable life. Hassan, Amir’s best friend is the son of Ali, the family servant, who is a Hazara. The Hazaras in Afghanistan were considered less than human by the Taliban and the more affluent population. They were a group of people who had little access to education and were relegated the most servile jobs in the community. Yet Baba (Amir’s father) never treats Hassan or Ali (James Saba) with anything less than love and respect. He considers the two his family. The two boys form a bond that is far stronger than mere friendship and both take part in kite fighting together. This sport in Afghanistan is a true work of art and involves considerable skill and dexterity. One person maneuvers the kite and the other holds the wooden drum around which the wire is wrapped. The idea is to take down the opponents kite by cutting his wire and releasing the kite into the air. The two boys worked as a team and together they win one of the contests. However, Hassan is bullied by one of the losers and as Amir watches he is brutalized unmercifully. Amir says nothing and the guilt he feels for his selfish insensitivity to the need of a boy who is as much his brother as anyone can be haunts him the rest of his life. I do not want to spoil this story for you but I promise you will sit in that theater mesmerized from the moment the action begins until the lights dim on the final heart-rending scene.
This play belongs to Barzin Akhavan who is both the narrator and the main character. He never loses his audience as he tells us a story that spans nearly 30 years of political and emotional upheaval and unrest. When the Soviets invade Afghanistan , Baba and Amir flee to Fremont California like so many of their countrymen and we are swept into the difficulties of adjusting to a materialistic culture that worships wealth as its god and cares not a whit for integrity, honor and respect.
Years later, Amir, now grown and a married man returns to his homeland to find his friend and eventually discovers a way to atone for his cowardice and neglect to the boy who was willing to sacrifice everything for him.
All the acting in this production is powerful but it is David Ira Goldstein’s gifted direction that keeps the pace moving, the action spellbinding and play of emotions at just the right level. I was struck by Lowell Abellon’s character…he was exactly as I had imagined Hassan would be when I read the book. He never over-played his part, he stayed in character and he captured every heart in the theater.
I cannot praise this production enough, not only for what it says, but for what was omitted. The book was a long one, rich with the kind of detail everyone loves in such a dramatic story of love, hate, brutality, sacrifice and an honor. Matthew Spangler managed to pull out the essence of Hosseini’s message and, without being maudlin, or overly sentimental, created a drama not just about Afghanistan and its people, but about humanity and the conflicts every thinking human being faces as he attempts to create an honorable life.

The Kite Runner continues until April 19, 2009
408 367 7266
$33-$62 with senior and student discounts
101 Paseo de San Antonio
San Jose, CA 95113-2603