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Photograph by Kevin Berne
SIGHT FOR SOARING EYES: Amir (Craig Piaget) and Hassan (Lowell Abellon) send their kite aloft in SJ Rep's 'The Kite Runner.'

Flying High

San Jose Rep adapts 'The Kite Runner' for the stage in new production

By Andrea Frainier

THE SIGHTS and sounds of Afghanistan come alive onstage as San Jose as the Repertory Theatre hosts the world premiere of The Kite Runner. Adapted from the bestselling novel by local author Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner, a story about friendship, betrayal and love, is a journey through the history of Afghanistan, from pre-Soviet days to a war-torn country ravaged by the Taliban. It is told through the memories of a boy named Amir.

"I really jumped at the chance because I loved the book," says stage director David Ira Goldstein. "Frankly, I jumped because it was a little scary, because I had to work with a culture I didn't know much about." Goldstein says that he faced a number of challenges condensing a novel that spans the world and three decades into a 2 1/2-hour play: "So many people have read this book and loved it, and you certainly want to honor their understanding and their knowledge of the story." Even though The Kite Runner was made into a movie in 2007, Goldstein believes the stage version is truer to the book than the film was. He credits this advantage to playwright Matthew Spangler, an assistant professor of communication studies at San Jose State University, who did the stage adaptation. Through the use of props, costumes, lights and sounds, the audience is taken on a journey that stretches from the streets of Kabul to the bustle of the Bay Area and even includes the kite-fighting sequences, a major pastime in Afghanistan.

"I felt more of an obligation to get it right when we were talking about Afghanistan and Pakistan," Goldstein says. For this reason, Goldstein defers to a consultant to help him answers questions about dress and customs. But it's more the portrayal and the interactions of the characters, and the imaginations of the audience, that re-create the sense and feel of Afghanistan, than elaborate scenery. The stage version mostly stays true to the book, except for a few changes that were made at Hosseini's own request. The production was done "all with the blessing with Khaled," Goldstein says.

THE KITE RUNNER previews March 25–26 and opens March 27; regular shows are Tuesday at 7:30pm, Wednesday at 11am and/or 8pm, Thursday–Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3 and 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through April 19 at the Rep, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose. Tickets are $27–$48. (408.367.7255).

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