Feb 05

Review: The Kite Runner flies high

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

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The Kite Runner features a story that spans continents and pulls all the pieces together to tell a tale of friendship and betrayal and allows the audience to see a country that is unblemished by the turmoil that surrounds it today.

Theatre Calgary’s production of The Kite Runner opens with musician  Salar Nader playing djembe-like percussion instruments in the corner of the stage. Nader plays throughout the intense telling of Amir’s (Anousha Alamian) story of growing up in Afghanistan and the events of his life that made him the man he is today. Older Amir, acting as the narrator of the story, tell us that it’s wrong what they say about the past. You can’t bury it. We then see two young children, a young Amir (Conor Whylie) and his best friend Hassan (Norman Yeung) running around playing games.

As the story unfolds, we learn that Hassan and his father are Hazaras, an oppressed ethnic minority in Afghanistan, and are servants to Amir and his father Baba (Michael Peng), who are rich and Pashtuns, an ethnic group that dominates Afghanistan. But Amir and Hassan play around with each other as if they are siblings, climbing trees, play fighting. It’s when they run into the neighbourhood psychopath Assef (Ali Momen) that the audience realizes how the unevenness of their friendship has an influence on Amir.

This leads to Amir committing a deep betrayal of that friendship that becomes a heavy burden for him to bear facing his feelings of inadequacy towards his relationship with his father. Lives get torn apart amidst the political changes within the country and Amir and his father wind up fleeing to America. Amir meets Soraya (Dalal Badr) and they get married. Then voices and people of his past come to haunt him in his new-found home and he take the journey of redemption from his past betrayal.

The Kite Runner is a complex tale that manages to give a comprehensive picture of Afghani culture and the country before it got torn apart by political turmoil. The scenes that include kite fighting are eye-opening to the countries’ traditions and culture before the Taliban took power. Eric Rose’s direction manages to take the dense script and fuse it with outstanding set design and memorable acting to create a compelling piece of theatre.

Kerem Cetinel’s Lighting and Sound design are very well done. Opening scenes are set to background of green and blue, with kites suspended in the backdrop. When the tension mounts on stage, Salar Nader’s drumming swells and is a nice touch. When Amir returns to the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, the set bares resemblance to the opening scenes, except it’s dark and dismal, with burnt kites in the backdrop and torn draping hanging in the background.

Cetinel’s San Francisco is a large red bridge-like structure on stage and a backdrop of a dotted San Francisco bridge. It is sparse but give the feel of hope and renewal that America offers the characters. Gillian Gallow’s costume design is of note, fitting the countries and cultures of the play.

The Kite Runner features great acting and especially of note are Anousha Alamian’s Amir, carrying the bulk of the narrative and being an effective storyteller. Ali Momen’s Assef is commendable. He strikes fear in your heart while embodying  the character’s radical thinking.

This play does not have a storyline that is family friendly and also features some gruesome moments. The narrative is compelling and eye-opening and Theatre Calgary does a lovely job on the production. All the pieces come together to tell a story that strikes a chord with the audience.

The Kite Runner runs until February 24th. Tickets are available online.
(Four and a half stars out of five)

Photo Credit: (From Left to Right) Michael Peng, Conor Wylie, Anousha Alamian, Norman Yeung, Parnelli Parnes.  Photo by Trudie Lee.

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