June 16, 2007
The American Place Theater Presents Khaled Hosseini's "The Kite Runner"
I remember reading The Kite Runner a couple of years ago, and then buying a second copy to mail to my father, living some ten thousand miles away, as a must-read. The Kite Runner was perhaps the first novel I read that was set in Afghanistan, the cultural ambiance of which fascinated me no end; the family dynamics, the male domination, the willing serfdom, and the passive acceptance of violence and aggression as a way of life had me spellbound. I am told Hosseini, at first, had submitted the manuscript of The Kite Runner as a short story. Apparently, the story made such an impact that publishers encouraged him to expand the story into a novel; that he sure did because the Kite Runner is 400+ pages long and spans over three generations.
The reason I'm pondering on a novel I read three years ago is because I revisited it today when I watched Ariyan Moayed do a verbatim theatrical adaptation of it for The American Place Theater - Literature to Life series. The solo performance was superb in that it brought the story alive. Ariyan Moayed, the solo performer, gave each of the five characters he played a distinct life of his own. His mastery of the bodily adjustments he made to suit individual characters was remarkable. For example, when playing Hassan, the servant boy, Ariyan was slightly bent over but with eager wide-eyed looks eager to please his master at any cost. Then for playing Amir, the rich but cowardly son of a powerful Pashtun landlord, Ariyan adopted jerky body movements that so aptly portrayed Amir's indecisiveness especially during trying and stressful situations. Indeed, Ariyan Moayed brought the novel to life in his rendition of but the first seventy pages of the novel, and it will be credit to him if the sale of the novel suddenly skyrockets in the tri state area since I saw bus loads of high school students at this performance.
Wynn Handman who adapted and directed this solo verbatim is a part of the American Place Theater group that aspires to make Literature closer to the lives of young Americans so that they are encouraged to read. It's a good first step, and what I saw today looks very promising, but a lot will depend on the kinds of novels that are picked for adaptation. For instance the fact that The Kite Runner was set in Afghanistan made for a lot of initial curiosity in the audience, and then of course Ariyan did the rest. The selection of novels will be crucial to the success of the Literature to Life project of The American Place Theater.
"The Kite Runner" is a heartrending story of friendship, guilt, and forgiveness that spans across two continents and three generations that lived through the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the American invasion of it, and then the horrifying Taliban ordeal that followed. The novel needs no recommending; the fact that it had been on the NYT bestseller list for two years and has sold some four million copies says it all.
*Khaled Hosseini's new book titled "A Thousand Splendid Suns" is out this month, and the reviews are promising.