Review Roundup: THE KITE RUNNER Opens On Broadway!

One of the best-loved and most highly acclaimed novels of our time, The Kite Runner is a haunting tale of friendship spanning cultures and continents.

By: Jul. 21, 2022
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Review Roundup: THE KITE RUNNER Opens On Broadway!
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The stage adaptation of the classic novel The Kite Runner opens tonight night on Broadway. The show will run through October 30 at The Hayes Theater (240 West 44th Street). Read the reviews!

Leading the cast is Amir Arison as Amir and Faran Tahir as Baba. They will be joined by Mazin Akar, Barzin Akhavan, Demosthenes Chrysan, Azita Ghanizada, Danish Farooqui, Joe Joseph, Déa Julien, Dariush Kashani, Beejan Land, Amir Malaklou, Christine Mirzayan, Haris Pervaiz, Alex Purcell, Eric Sirakian, Houshang Touzie, and Evan Zes. Salar Nader plays the tabla, a percussion instrument.

Based on Khaled Hosseini's internationally best-selling novel and adapted by Matthew Spangler, the production comes to New York from two successful seasons in London's West En.

The Kite Runner is directed by Giles Croft and adapted by Matthew Spangler. The creative team is Barney George (Scenic and Costume Design), Charles Balfour (Lighting Design), Drew Baumohl (Sound Design), William Simpson (Projection Design), Jonathan Girling (Composer and Musical Supervisor), Kitty Winter (Movement Director), Laura Stanczyk (Casting Director), Humaira Ghilzai (Cultural Advisor and Script Consultant) and Damian Sandys (Associate Director).

It is produced by Victoria Lang, Ryan Bogner and Tracey McFarland of Broadway & Beyond Theatricals, Jayne Baron Sherman, and Hunter Arnold, in association with UK Productions Ltd. and Flying Entertainment Ltd/Kilimanjaro Group Ltd. Daryl Roth is the Executive Producer.

Originally published in 2003, The Kite Runner became a bestseller across the globe and has since been published in 70 countries, selling 31.5 million copies in 60 languages. Now this powerful story has been adapted into a stunning stage production.

One of the best-loved and most highly acclaimed novels of our time, The Kite Runner is a haunting tale of friendship spanning cultures and continents, that follows one man's journey to confront his past and find redemption. Afghanistan is a divided country on the verge of war and two childhood friends are about to be torn apart. It's a beautiful afternoon in Kabul and the skies are full of the excitement and joy of a kite flying tournament. But neither of the boys can foresee the terrible incident which will shatter their lives forever.  

Maya Phillips, The New York Times: Unsurprisingly, the most memorable image in "The Kite Runner," which opened at the Helen Hayes Theater on Thursday night, is of the kites. They're miniature, attached to thin poles that several actors wave, white tissue-paper flitting, birdlike, over their heads. The paper crinkles as the kites part the air with a soft swish. If only the rest of this stiff production, adapted by Matthew Spangler from the popular 2003 novel by Khaled Hosseini, exuded such elegance.

Chris Jones, The New York Daily News: Seeing everything through one pair of narrative eyes limits what the show can achieve on stage. And time and time again - most notably when Amir finally explains the past to his underwritten new wife, Soraya (Azita Ghanizada) - we are told about a scene rather than shown. Sure, there's an imperative to be honest to the novel and the protagonist's journey through guilt is easily understood by a broad audience. But this is now a play and it's a different time. It's clear that Sirakian is a deeply moving actor; but the show never gives him enough power in his own part of the story to fully demonstrate. The same applies to Ghanizada, playing the one woman on the stage with any kind of role. Frankly, it's egregious.

Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: Despite the attractive projections of Afghanistan and San Francisco, there is no relief to be found in the staging of the show. Characters do that weird thing of walking round in circles and to the left and right a bit to convey walking long distances or negotiating spaces with unseen doors or streets. The biggest bizarre design decision is to not feature actual theater-filling, kite-flying. Come on, you're in a Broadway theater doing The Kite Runner! What about finding a striking way to recreate the amazing races Hosseini evokes so beautifully on the page. But no. Instead, all that lingers is the heavy pall of homophobic, simplistic ugliness-and so many unanswered questions.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Spangler's stage adaptation is no "Night Porter." Then again, it is no "Schindler's List" or "The Damned" either. At the core of "The Kite Runner" is a case of hidden paternity, the kind that is best left to comedies written in another century.

Juan A. Ramirez, Theatrely: But it had been too long since I'd last seen this kind of tearjerky TED talk, and it's a genre I did not particularly miss. It's a fascinating-enough story, if only because its healthy heapings of melodrama demand the seriousness post-9/11 white guilt. But its hurried second act doesn't deliver on the first's more in-depth investigations of class, ethnicity, and of who gets to escape versus who must stay in a decaying country. Facing this narrative in 2022, I'd just as soon leave it on the school reads table at Barnes & Noble.

Diep Tran, New York Theatre Guide: Toward the end of the play, Amir kneels down in prayer, his arms out and hands outstretched, repeating in Arabic: "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger." The stage is dark aside from a single spotlight. In that moment, The Kite Runner is given the rare chance to be still. So much is unspoken in Arison's inflections and body language: his desperation, sadness, and guilt. The moment is haunting in its simplicity. If only The Kite Runner on Broadway depended less on the novel and trusted more on its stagecraft. There might have been more moments like this, of flight and transcendence.

Greg Evans, Deadline: The latest incarnation, adapted by Matthew Spangler, opens tonight at Broadway's Hayes Theater under the direction of Giles Croft. Despite its heartfelt intentions and some impressive performances, The Kite Runner doesn't improve in any significant way over The Kite Runner on screen. And it's a whole lot talkier.

Matthew Wexler, Queerty: Arison, who's appeared for nine seasons on NBC's "The Blacklist," leans into movement director Kitty Winter's stylized pedestrian choreography, with a shape-shifting ensemble breathing life into the world of the play. But like the shepherd in Aesop's The Boy Who Cried Wolf, he wrenches to reach the emotional heights required of the text. Crocodile tears have diluted the audience's emotional capacity by the time the real ones flow. Barney George's scenic and costume design, though simple, serve the story, enhanced by William Simpson's projection designs. Tabla artist Salar Nader, along with the ensemble's use of singing bowls and percussive schwirrbogen, creates blankets of sound to envelop the action. But it's Sirakian's performance as young Hassan and Sohrab (Hassan's son) in Act II that emotionally tethers The Kite Runner to the audience. Sirakian, making his Broadway debut, exudes wide-eyed innocence and an uncompromising fortitude as Hassan - without question - defends his best friend and later his family

Johnny Oleksinski, The New York Post: Onstage, of course, we don't have hundreds of pages to let the ambitious tale breathe. We've got 2½ hours. So the sheer number of tragedies makes "The Kite Runner" an especially tough story to adapt without turning it into a soap opera - an emotional shellacking. That treacherous trap, however, is shrewdly avoided on Broadway, where a moving stage adaptation of the book opened Thursday night, because of the actors' radiating warmth and the production's generosity of spirit. It's a straightforward, to-the-point play, but one that's easy to embrace and gripping as it unfurls.

Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: Director Giles Croft, who also helmed the hit U.K. production, moves things along rather well on a smartly sparse set (carpets and crates are just about the only adornments you'll spot). And the gifted tabla artist Salar Nader, onstage throughout the entire show, provides dramatic accompaniment in just the right spots. One curious directorial choice: The second act features a silhouetted reenactment of a cold-blooded killing behind a curtain, which produces an incongruous puppet-show effect. Perhaps it's an effort to interrupt the constant, sometimes draggy, narration, but in that case, telling us that the Taliban shot someone in the back of the head in the street would be dramatic enough.

David Cote, The Observer: Adapting novels for the stage is a noble endeavor; a healthy culture should be eager to translate its new (or classic) narratives into other media. I've seen revelatory theatrical versions of Dostoyevsky's Demons (twice), Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (verbatim in the marathon masterpiece by Elevator Repair Service) and others-many at New YorkTheatre Workshop. While popular fiction generally gravitates to movies or streaming series, there is an argument to be made for transforming novels into live performance. The Kite Runner, long on talking and short on showing, does not make that argument very strongly.

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