Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Kite Runner

THE KITE RUNNER ascends to incredible heights at the Cleveland Play House

Combine a superbly-crafted script, well-conceived and perfectly paced direction, and, a brilliant cast….the results? The Cleveland Play House's THE KITE RUNNER.

On the surface, THE KITE RUNNER is a story of two boys growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, before, during and after the rise of the Talibahan. In reality, it is a story of culture, dehumanization, human frailty and redemption.

Amir is the son of a wealthy emotionally distant businessman. Hassan is the son of Amir's father's servant. The two are inseparable until, following a kite flying contest, Hassan is brutally attacked while Amir watches and finally abandons his friend and runs away. Their relationship is never the same. Years later, an emotionally crippled Amir returns to Afghanistan to seek out his friend and atone for his youthful cowardice. But fate, global politics and a revelation of past deeds, nearly intercede to thwart Amir's ability to make amends for his ill-conceived choices.

Those who have read Khaled Hosseini's best-selling book may fear that Matthew Spangler, a professor of performance studies, could not have brought the printed page faithfully to the stage. Fear not. Spangler has penned an adaptation that is faithful to the events, characters and spirit of the novel. In fact, seeing the action unravel live adds to the conflicted, guilt-ridden narrative voice of the original author.

The CPH production, under the focused eye of Marc Masterson, wraps itself around the mind and compels attention. There is no time for attention to wander. Every scene grabs the imagination and sweeps the viewer into the action.

Michael Raiford's simple set of Middle Eastern arches, sliding panels and a two-sided brick wall, works masterfully. Lorraine Venberg's culturally correct costumes add to the reality. Brain Lilienthal's lighting design leads our emotional highs and lows. Matt Callahan's realistic sound effects further enhances the eerie reality. Cultural consultant, Humaira Ghilzai, has added the needed faithful ethnic authenticity.

Young Matt Pascua, appearing in his professional stage debut, is mesmerizing as Hassan. This is a multi-textured role that develops from childhood exuberance and subservience to pain and near psychological destruction. If there was a local award to be given for superb acting, Pascua would qualify for it.

Jos Viramontes does not just portray the adult Amir, he IS Amir! Acting as the narrator, our Greek chorus who explains and adds textured highlights, as well as the living character, Viramontes is flawless. His emotions and reactions are completely real.

Jose Peru Flores makes the sensitive, fearful Young Amir, live. Aadya Bedi is real as Soraya, Amir's wife. Nasser Faris is properly aloof as Baba, Amir's father. The rest of the ensemble is equally impressive.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: 'THE KITE RUNNER' is theatre at its finest. This is a must see production….Bravo! Superb! Wow!