A consistent feature of bestseller lists worldwide, Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner is a moving tale of a friendship gone acerbic amid the turbulence of conflict-laden Afghanistan and one man´s quest for redemption following a cruel mistake. Amir, an anxious child yearning for his father’s love and approval, and his servant Hassan, a sweet Hazara (an ethnic minority in Afghanistan, frequently mocked for their Central Asian facial features) boy with remarkable integrity, form an inseparable kite-flying duo until one fateful day, when Amir is called upon to prove the strength of his friendship and resolutely fails. His guilt, mingled with jealousy over the attentions his father lavishes on Hassan, drive a cleft between the two boys who are separated forever when Amir and his father leave Afghanistan to seek a new life in San Francisco, USA. But after all, as Hosseini says, “life is not a Hindi movie” and the past has a way of catching up to Amir, an aspiring writer now married to the love of his life Soraya. Forced to confront his past that has insistently haunted his life in America, Amir will have to prove that he has sturdied his wavering moral compass in a final test of character.
Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of this story has been highly praised and received five San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Awards. At King’s Theatre, this performance attracted a wide variety of spectators, from school children to elders, a confirmation of this story being solid bestseller material. One of the admirable aspects of this production is that the dialect coaching has been done seamlessly; the American and the Persian accents coexist happily, and this does not feel awkward, as is often the case in productions using foreign accents.
Of note is Hanif Khan’s percussion accompaniment that creates an oriental ambience and was great entertainment while waiting for the play to commence. The set is minimal but effective. The varied background as well as the darting kite props adds to a layered approach with the percussionist at the bottom of the stage, the actors in the middle and the movement of kites at the top which was visually stimulating and successfully accomplished.
A definite crowd-pleaser was the universalised portrayal of the émigré experience. Andrei Costin’s performance as Hassan seemed to take a rather comic approach. Hearty laughter came naturally whenever Costin appeared on stage and although humor is always appreciated, it runs at the expense of making Hassan a frankly imbecilic character. Another weak point was that Soraya appears as a 2D Mary Sue who seems to have no other function but to be Amir’s token wife.