Bridgeworthy: “A Thousand Splendid Suns” at The Old Globe Makes For a Splendid Night in Balboa Park

On May 17th, A Thousand Splendid Suns opened at The Old Globe theatre in Balboa Park. Set across three generations of Afghan women in Kabul, A Thousand Splendid Suns is an important, moving and thoughtful tale of family, friendship, destruction and love in a war-torn country worlds away from Coronado.

The cast and musician and composer David Coulter (in black). Photo by Jim Cox.

Irish-Indian playwright Ursula Rani Sarma adapted the story for the stage from the beloved novel by Khaled Hosseini. Hosseini, author of And the Mountains Echoed and The Kite Runner, wrote A Thousand Splendid Suns in 2007 to much critical acclaim. Director Carey Perloff is a 25-year veteran Artistic Director of American Conservatory Theater, of which A Thousand Splendid Suns is presented in Association with.

Playwright Ursula Rani Sarma. Photo by Helen Warner.
Author Khaled Hosseini. Photo by Elena Seibert.
Director Carey Perloff. Photo by Elena Seibert.
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For those who have read the novel and are curious, the timeline of the play does not align with the book’s exactly. This artistic strategy makes sense, as the novel is so dense with detail and the play’s running time simply would not allow to capture the whole story and each scene in its entirety. However, the adaptation does an excellent job at conveying the themes and the largest, most poignant aspects of the novel. Mostly, it focuses on the friendship forged between Laila and Mariam, and their tumultuous lives living under the same roof together in 1990’s Kabul.

(from top) Nadine Malouf as Laila and Denmo Ibrahim as Mariam in A Thousand Splendid Suns. Photo by Jim Cox.

In an interview with Simon Hodgson and Shannon Stockwell, Sarma said, “The theatre is one of the best mediums to explore complex human relationships like the ones at the center of A Thousand Splendid Suns.”

(from left) Nadine Malouf as Laila and Joseph Kamal as Babi in A Thousand Splendid Suns. Photo by Jim Cox.

‘Complex human relationships’ is an accurate ways to describe the intricate, personal and overwhelming triumphs and tribulations between the characters in this play. Death, violence, friendship, motherhood, patriotism, marriage, family, defeat, love and survival are all at the forefront of the story. I believe this novel may be appropriate enough for high school students to read and learn from, but after seeing the play myself, I would suggest only a mature audience enjoy the production due to some graphic scenes.

The cast is an all-star team of immense talent. The characters Mariam and Laila steal the show, working together to overcome obstacles within their home, within their roles, and within the volatile landscape of war within their country.

(from left) Denmo Ibrahim as Mariam, Nadine Malouf as Laila, Nikita Tewani as Aziza, Arden Pala as Zalmai, and Haysam Kadri as Rasheed in A Thousand Splendid Suns. Photo by Jim Cox.

In addition to the talented performers, the music and art design were outstanding. Scenic Designer Ken MacDonald’s stage evoked particular emotions with merely simple color changes, alternating various shades of the sky to translate scenes of despair or joy. Musician and composer David Coulter complemented and enhanced each scene with interesting, captivating and lovely musical selections.

The Old Globe – and Balboa Park, for that matter – is such a treat and privilege to have in San Diego. Just across the bridge, it offers a wide selection of world-class culture in a picturesque setting. On an early summer evening, it’s nothing less than magical to wander around, with the California Tower dominating the skyline once you are at the theatre. This production takes place in The Old Globe’s indoor performance space, which is just as intimate as the outdoor venue. Prior to the show, head to Panama 66 for some appetizers and spirits. For a little nightcap, treat yourself to some late-night bites and drinks at The Prado.

A Thousand Splendid Suns at The Old Globe Theatre runs Tuesdays thru Sundays until June 17th. For showtimes, ticket information, and more, visit The Old Globe’s website.

In addition to the performance, the theatre is hosting several seminars and events related to the content of A Thousand Splendid Suns.

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A graduate of the University of Oregon's Journalism School, Rebecca lived in New York City and Seattle prior to moving back to southern California. She's worked for Condé Nast, Time Inc., and other local publications. Rebecca enjoys riding her purple beach cruiser, creating self-guided taco tours, traveling, reading and subsequently drinking wine with her book club, cooking, decorating and entertaining.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: manager@coronadotimes.com