New York, New York July 28, 2022 --
What does it take to be a friend? In The Kite Runner, two inseparable young men live within yards of each other; only one is the master Amir (Amir Arison), the other the servant Hassan (Eric Sirakian). The boys' fathers, also close friends, are raising their sons without a mother. At the dismay of Amir's father, Baba, (Faran Tahir) Amir eschews athletics for writing and poetry.

When the play opens, the boys are twelve years-old and yearn for the day when they can compete in the kite running competition. (Until this show, I never thought of kite flying as a sport.) Without the benefit of kites billowing overhead, Amir's narration illuminates the soaring kites tricked out with glass pieces on the stings making them lethal weapons in kite battles. The handlers nimbly swerve between kite "cutting" competitors.

One tall and lean, the other, short and compact, the two young boys share a love for one another, but are otherwise opposites. Athletic and driven by honor and a mean sling-shot, Hassan protects his much smarter and privileged friend Amir; whereas, the poetic and privileged Amir can barely find a spine to hold up his back.

Bullied by the local thug Assef (Amir Malaklou), Hassan releases his lethal sling shot -- like Daniel before Goliath--but soon after, he suffers irredeemable humiliation. Amir's response to Hassan's trauma is cowardly, insensitive and wholly stomach turning.

Years pass, Amir and his father escape Iran after the Shah's assassination in 1979 which gives way to the Russian invasion in 1981. After passing through Pakistan, they land in San Francisco. The redemption of Amir transpires over a series of revelations and miscalculations. Married to a deeply understanding Iranian American wife Soraya (Azita Ghanizada), Amir retraces his lineage and faces Hassan's spirit and the blessings of his friendship.

Perceptively directed by Giles Croft, Barney George's traditional and contemporary costumes place Amir in a white shirt and black pants while Hassan adopts the traditional tunic over loose pants. They move through George's spare set enlivened by Charles Balfour's atmospheric lighting, William Simpson's evocative projections and the mesmerizingly soulful Mideastern beats played by the onstage table player, Salar Nader.

A profoundly personal story portrayed by an intensely stirring cast, the audience sits transfixed until the end, when everyone erupts in cathartic applause.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis


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