A Thousand Splendid Suns; the journey from the page to the stage . . .
"One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs;
Or the thousand Splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”
(-Josephine Davis’ translation of Saib Tabrizi’s poem ‘Kabul’ written in the 17th century)
Last autumn, the #MeToo movement began in Hollywood and spread across the world, shining a light on sexual harassment and assault, and dominating the social-political scene ever since. In this climate comes a play which tells the story of three generations of Afgan women who are bound together by marriage, family and a secret past amid the war-torn streets of modern-day Kabul. Hosseini has stated that he was inspired to write A Thousand Splendid Suns after visiting Afganistan and speaking with the strong women who live in a country where their rights are often oppressed.
The American Conservatory Theater has skilfully staged playwright Indian-Irish Ursula Rani Sarma's adaptation of A Thousand Splendid Suns based on the 2007 novel by Khaled Hosseini, which depicts the lives of two women married to the same cruel, sadistic man in a post-war Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. A Thousand Splendid Suns is written to acquaint a Western audience with the burka-clad women who long for education, professional opportunities and a society that doesn't restrict their every move.
The play has a limited engagement from July 17-29 at the Geary Theater in San Francisco. It opened in May at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, and will next be performed at the Seattle Repertory Theater October 5-November 10.
Hosseini—an Afghani-American physician who burst onto the literary scene in 2003 with 'The Kite Runner'—captures the daily injustices of a time and place where women are dismissed, devalued and finally, dehumanized; Sarma has retained that depth in her adaptation. The story unfolds to the accompaniment of haunting original music from David Coulter, who performs live—often coaxing otherworldly tones from saw blades and other unconventional instruments.
For me and many others in the packed audience, the play was a heart-wrenching experience to see that a world like this exists—it's a reminder that every person under a veil, every refugee seeking asylum has a universe inside them, an entire history, a lifetime of hopes and desires. It teaches us to recognize the atrocities being committed and to realize our own blessings.
In an interview with A.C.T., Sarma stated that the play "is about the immense strength and endurance of women and how they can survive tremendous suffering to keep those they love alive. It is also about how, even in the darkest of times and places, love can grow and sustain the human spirit beyond all pain and hardship. It's about friendship and loyalty, courage and selflessness, grief and violence."