Khaled Hosseini’s tearjerker 2003 novel The Kite Runner has no shortage of horrific trauma: deaths, beatings, a rape, the disastrous Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. To say the least, it’s a lot.
All of this immense pain might prove overwhelming for the reader, yet the author’s gift for writing lush imagery and delicate, nuanced relationships softens the blow. It became a book club staple for years.
2 hours and 30 minutes, with one break. At the Hayes Theater, 240 W. 44th St.
Of course we don’t have hundreds of pages on stage to let the ambitious story breathe. We have 2½ hours. So the sheer number of tragedies makes The Kite Runner a particularly difficult story to adapt without turning into a soap opera—an emotional shellac.
That treacherous trap is cleverly avoided on Broadway, however, where a moving stage adaptation of the book opened Thursday night, because of the radiant warmth of the actors and the generosity of the production.
It’s a straight-forward, to-the-point game, but one that’s easy to embrace and hook as it unfolds.
We first meet Amir as a boy in Kabul, Afghanistan. He is portrayed both as a child and later as an adult by adult actor Amir Arison, a sensitive performer who does not exaggerate or exaggerate youthful traits like so many actors do.
Amir’s family are wealthy Pashtuns, while his best friend and domestic servant Hassan (Eric Sirakian) is a Hazara – an Afghan race that faces extreme discrimination at home. Thugs, including a donkey named Assef (Amir Malaklou), taunt and threaten them both for going against the grain.
Hassan’s father Ali (Evan Zes) has been serving the family and Amir’s father (Faran Tahir), whom he calls Baba, has been serving the family for 40 years. They consider Hassan and Ali family, but class differences always loom over every interaction.
The social stigmas, not to mention the macho culture around them, take a devastating toll on friendship. Meanwhile, the Taliban’s brutal incursion shakes their country.
Act 2 takes place primarily in the United States, and we learn what has become of both boys – and their bond, which we hold dear.
Giles Croft directs the drama quickly and easily on Barney George’s sparse half-pipe style set. He is not a flashy director and scenes are simply presented with minimal furniture and no pretentious tricks. The actors can do their thing unencumbered.
Sirakian is a great talent giving us first such a lovely and sweet Hassan and later in another role a tormented, shaking, desperate young man. Our concern for Hassan’s well-being – reinforced by this actor’s laudable Broadway debut – is in large part what makes the show work.
He is part of a consistently strong cast. Tahir and Zes both come across as proud men who are torn down and emasculated for different reasons.
Hosseini’s story, spanning three decades and two continents, is action-packed, and to tie it all together, playwright Matthew Spangler has Amir narrate the story while a drummer sits backstage and interrupts the speech. All those exhibits necessary to get to our destination can feel like packing a suitcase for a five-month vacation.
As far as literary stage adaptations go – a touch-and-go genre if there ever was one – The Kite Runner is hugely satisfying and soulful.
https://nypost.com/2022/07/21/the-kite-runner-broadway-review-a-gripping-stage-adaptation/ ‘The Kite Runner’ Broadway Review: A Captivating Stage Adaptation