You’ll recall I made some lofty goals for preparing to go see Shooting Kabul. I pretty much failed. I did get as far as getting the book from the library and reading the first chapter out loud. This review will be without the benefit of having read the book, yet. I ended up purchasing the book at the autograph table, so I will read it — eventually. I’m looking forward to it, but I want to do it out loud with my daughter. So I’ll do it on our schedule.
You do not need to read the book to enjoy the play. So don’t let that stop you. But if you have the time, I believe from the post-performance discussion, that it will be worth the trouble. The following is my review of the SteppingStone Theatre production of Shooting Kabul.
The more I enjoy a play, the more I dread my review of it. I’m not sure I can do it justice. I really enjoyed this play. I cried most of the way through it. My daughter enjoyed it on another level and I hope it will stick with her as she grows. She was bored during the post-performance discussion with Congressman Ellis; playwright Kim Hines; and author Naheed Hasnat (N. H. Senzai). I’ll remember that in the future. I’ll still make her go, but I’ll let her bring her sketchbook.
As an adult, I found much of this play heartbreaking and was glad I had a handkerchief with me. In the beginning of the story, the family flees Taliban controlled Afghanistan in a mid-night escape. However, as they are jumping onto the truck that will sneak them over the border to Pakistan, 6-year-old Mariam is lost and left behind. The rest of the story focuses on 11-year-0ld Fadi but portrays the suffering and blame that the whole family feels as they go on with day to day life while continuing to search for Mariam overseas. From a mother’s perspective this is our greatest nightmare. Yet, while everyone focuses on finding Mariam, young Fadi is quietly shouldering the blame as well. I came across this quote from Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms the other day and it fit this story so well. Fadi is focused on bringing home Mariam in his own way.
For the grade schooler, this is a story about not quite fitting in, about the politics of school, about bullying and about finding your unique place in the world — being the best version of yourself. All of these things are addressed. However, this is where reading the book together would deepen this story. Ms. Hines had to focus on portraying the essence of the story within the confines of the a stage performance. The book (we were told) delves deeper into interpersonal relationships and the motives of the characters. Unlike much of what we find in children’s media today, the bullies are not demonized as unredeemable thugs. They, too, are children trying to find their unique place in the world.
Some notable things. This play is well anchored with two adults playing key roles. Marisa Carr played Fadi’s mother Zaloona and the art teacher Ms. Bethuna. Roberto Padua played the adult Fadi, his father – Habib and Clive the photographer. Nikolas Liepins, who plays young Fadi, and Moheka Rozie, who played Noor, were also strong actors.
One of the beautiful things about SteppingStone Theatre is the way it challenges its audience to understand, identify with and connect to the people around them. They believe in our youth. They believe our children are strong and capable of so much understanding that they aren’t afraid to ask them to go deep. I don’t want to be afraid to do that either.
Disclaimer: Steppingstone Theatre was kind enough to set aside two tickets for me to review this play. However, it was a Pay-What-You-Can Performance and they would have extended the same deal to you. I purchased my copies of the book. All observations and opinions are my own regardless of free tickets or purchased books.