BWW Reviews: Cultures Collide in Thought-Provoking LOVE IN AFGHANISTAN at Arena Stage
As actors, Aker and Davis prove adept at displaying the awkward yet at time comfortable chemistry between their two characters and leave the audience guessing as to whether there is a real romance budding between them.
As the parental figures, Kamal and Ursula give solid performances as professionals that are also parents wanting what's best for their sometimes challenging children. Ursula's performance is particularly elegant and perfectly suited to her driven character.
The design elements are as strong as the acting.
Daniel Conway's minimal yet beautifully designed set, complete with a Middle East-inspired rug, is functional yet abstract enough that it can serve as an Afghan market, a facility on a military base (including an interrogation room), a posh hotel room in Dubai, to many more locations with no changes. While the need for a raised, metal, grid-like platform left me slightly perplexed, one has to admire the simple artistry at play in the overall design.
Elisheba Itoop's marvelous and varied original music and sound design captured the flavor of the sounds and music of the region without being too overwhelming. Kathleen Geldard's costume design is also effective in demonstrating the cultural gap between the two characters while representing who they are and what they value as individuals quite well. I particularly liked how the wardrobe for the Roya character straddled the East and the West, much like the character. Mark Lanks theatrical and purposeful lighting also is a tremendous asset.
Overall, the production left me longing for more in terms of the script, but one has to give a hand to Arena Stage for taking on a world premiere play - one that shows promised if some fundamental issues are dealt with - and presenting it exceptionally well.
Running Time: 2 hours including an intermission.
Love in Afghanistan plays at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater - 1101 6th Street, SW in Washington, DC - through November 17, 2013. For tickets, call the box office at 202-488-3300 or purchase them online.