A Thousand Splendid Suns
Through June 17th
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Old Globe Theater, San Diego
Written by Cathy Breslaw
Clamorous cheers and clapping erupted from the audience, when Rasheed, the shoemaker husband was killed by his first wife Mariam. And, for good reason – Rasheed had been beating and often starving both Mariam and Laila, his second wife for years. This poignant drama, highlighting the complex conditions of their untenable lives mostly takes place within the tight confines of their modest home and is what brought main characters Mariam (Denmo Ibrahim) and Laila (Nadine Malouf) together. It is also where their unlikely friendship grew into respect, love and loyalty to one another and from where the center of the story of A Thousand Splendid Suns unfolds.
The play is mostly set in Kabul Afghanistan during the Afghan Civil War (1989-1996). After the Soviets left the country, militant groups turned against each other – while one group shelled Kabul from the surrounding hills, others fought to control neighborhoods. Deadly roadblocks, disappearing neighbors and decaying bodies on the streets were common and it’s where the Taliban emerged to take control of most of the county. The Taliban issued edicts banning women from working, attending school and leaving home without male escort. Their bodies had to be covered head to toe or they would be brutally treated – public arenas became places of stoning, amputations, murders, and beheadings. This is the backdrop from which this play, directed by Carey Perloff, adapted by playwright Ursula Rani Sarma (originating from the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini ) evolved.
Set against three generations of Afghan women in war-torn Afghanistan, the themes of friendship, marriage, family, death, destruction, violence, loyalty, survival and hope are explored. This is a play that can be difficult to digest due to its strong emotional and violent content. Expressing the many faces of humanity, it can also educate and inspire us. The cast gave compelling and evocative performances. Equally important are the Set Designer (Ken MacDonald), Lighting Designer (Robert Wierzel), Sound Designer (Jake Rodriguez), and Musical Composer (David Coulter), who performed his original music live. This component provided a beautiful, enchanting and stimulating visual and sound space for audiences to experience a sometimes heartrending, haunting and horrific tale that we all realize has played out in ‘real life’ for many Afghans, thousands of miles away.