Grab Your Seats: Arena’s Adaptation of ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ Couldn’t Be More Timely

(L to R) Nikita Tewani (Aziza/Afoon/Girl), Sarah Corey (Ensemble) and Antoine Yared (Tariq/Driver). Photo by Margot Schulman.

A Thousand Splendid Suns, now on stage at Arena’s Kreeger Theatre, is not an easy story to watch, yet it’s also impossible to tear your eyes – and thoughts – away.

Since its premiere in San Francisco in 2017, the stage adaptation (by Ursula Rani Sarma) of Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling book, has brought Afghanistan’s ethnic frictions to life for American audiences and has put a spotlight on how the war, oppression, and violence has changed Afghan lives so dramatically.  Especially so for Afghan women.

“I wanted to make a piece that was about generations of women raising each other and also about this question of what happens when children are raised to hate… and how that can turn,” said Director Carey Perloff, speaking on the night of the play’s premiere in DC.

(L to R) Haysam Kadri (Rasheed) and Mirian Katrib (Laila). Photo by Margot Schulman.

“It’s been really remarkable to do it in this town, at this moment, with what’s happening in the Middle East… but [Afghanistan] is a culture of great beauty, and great history and that is worth enormous celebrations.”

A Thousand Splendid Suns reminds audiences with all-too-real violence and hatred that Taliban extremism is not ‘the way it always was,’ but that it has made life — especially for women — almost unbearable. Yet friendships and saving grace may spring up in the unlikeliest of places.

“The thing I love most about the novel that I wanted to make in this piece is that it’s very rare to find a play about female friendship… To see the journey of two women over a period of time is very rare in the theatre, and yet is an incredibly important part of our lives.”

(L to R) Hend Ayoub (Mariam) and Mirian Katrib (Laila). Photo by Margot Schulman.

The entire cast is spellbinding, but it is Mirian Katrib (Laila) and Hend Ayoub (Mariam) that bring passion and poignancy to the struggle.  Injustices are heaped upon both of them and through all of the uncontrollable circumstances, they are forced to endure.

It’s an emotional endeavor just to sit in the audience without crying out, but this timely adaptation actually manages to leave audiences with a spirit of resiliency and hope… despite constant reflections on the war-torn community that remains.

Says Perloff, “It’s quite a dark play, but I hope it leaves some degree of hope.”

A Thousand Splendid Suns runs through March 1, 2020.  Runtime is approximately two and a half hours, including one 15-minute intermission. Tickets are available here