coping with the past

NEW YORK – “There’s a way to be good again” is the most revealing line uttered during Broadway drama ‘The Kite Runner.’ Adapted by Matthew Spangler and based on Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel, the show is a gripping, if somewhat flawed, tale of friendship, betrayal, family ties and rivalry, and class differences.

In 1975, Amir (Amir Arison) was a 12-year-old boy growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan. His father Baba (Faran Tahir) is a rich and powerful merchant. For as long as he can remember, Amir’s constant companion has been 11-year-old Hassan (Eric Sirakian), son of Baba’s longtime servant Ali (Evan Zes). Amir is a quiet guy and is happiest when he is reading a book or trying to write a story, although Baba would prefer his son to be more interested in sports instead.

Epoch Times photo
Dariush Kashani (L) and Amir Arison in The Kite Runner. (Joan Marcus)

Even if Amir and Hassan spend most of their time together, belonging to different social classes is always present. Looking back on those times, Amir’s adult self remembers that he never really considered Hassan a friend. Hassan, on the other hand, is fully devoted to Amir and is a master slingshot. Hasan uses these traits to save himself and Amir from some local thugs, a trio led by Assef (Amir Malaklou).

One day after Amir and Hassan compete in Kabul’s annual hang-gliding tournament, Hassan is the victim of a brutal attack, an attack that Amir witnesses and does nothing about it.

Although Hassan never speaks about the incident and may not have been aware of Amir’s presence, Amir is consumed with guilt over his inaction and tries to avoid Hassan whenever possible. Eventually he accuses Hassan of theft to force Ali to give up Baba’s employment and take Hassan with him. In this, Amir succeeds, despite Baba’s pleas that she stay.

But Hassan’s departure does nothing to ease Amir’s conscience, nor does the passage of time. From fleeing Afghanistan with his father after a Russian invasion, to starting a new life in San Francisco, to falling in love with fellow immigrant Soraya (Azita Ghanizada) and succeeding as a writer, the memory of what happened haunts him still . It’s only when he receives a summons from his father’s (Dariush Kashani) former associate that Amir realizes he must return to his homeland and try to make things right.

Epoch Times photo
(L-R) Faran Tahir, Beejan Land, Amir Arison, Danish Farooqui, Azita Ghanizada, Amir Malaklou and Houshang Touzie in The Kite Runner. (Joan Marcus).

The need for forgiveness and being able to forgive yourself is the central theme of The Kite Runner. Amir suffers not only from what happened to Hassan, but also from the belief that he killed his mother (she died giving birth) and that his father never forgave him. Amir isn’t the only one trying to atone for his mistakes. For example, Soraya reveals things from her past that she is not proud of, and Baba is afraid to reveal his own secret for fear of how his people will react.

Another common theme is the way people from similar situations can be perceived quite differently. Amir and Hassan are treated differently because of their different class levels, even though they grew up together.

Amir is also treated differently when he returns home as an adult to find his country radically changed and considers himself little more than a tourist. Other themes explored include committing a clear mistake for a greater good and how inflexible the bureaucracy can be no matter how mitigating the circumstances.

Too much, too fast

Despite the evidence, the show ultimately falters trying to cover too much material in the allotted time. This is particularly evident in the final scenes, both of which feel overly long. There are several places where the story could actually end. At the same time, it feels rushed. There is no way to fully explore multiple major plot points such as: B. how a character came into possession of certain key pieces of information or why some plot points disappear from the story immediately after being revealed.

Epoch Times photo
(L-R) Beejan Land, Amir Arison and Evan Zes in The Kite Runner. (Joan Marcus).

Arison, who is on stage throughout the play, is superb as Amir, although it takes a few minutes to believe his portrayal of a 12-year-old. His strongest moments come when he’s vocally silent and unable to tell anyone, including the woman he loves, about his secret shame, even if his facial expressions and pauses speak volumes.

Sirakian is very good as Hassan, a boy who is utterly loyal to Amir even in the worst of times, although Sirakian’s later performance as another character doesn’t ring entirely true.

Tahir is beautifully imposing as Baba, a man with an almost regal demeanor, although he can still crack if the right buttons are pushed. Ghanizada offers just the right touch as Soraya. Her first meeting with Amir and her subsequent courtship come across as very sweet. Malaklou cuts quite a menacing figure as Assef.

The Kite Runner has a lot to say, but if it tries to tell too much, it never quite takes off.

‘kite runner’
Helen Hayes Theater
240 W. 44th St.
Cards: 212-239-6200 or Telecharge.com
Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (one break)
Closes: October 30, 2022

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