Playwright Tony Kushner has a knack for seeing into the future. In 1998 he began writing "Homebody/Kabul" a play about life in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime.
Providence, RI –
In his epic play "Angels in America," Tony Kushner spins elaborate but predictable variations on well-worn political themes. "Homebody/Kabul" is more impressive because Kushner ventures out into the world and lands in Afghanistan, where he stages a wordy, muddled but compelling clash between western and Moslem values. Usually, in American drama, the Third World is used to batter the decadence of the West, but Kushner is too good a playwright to overlook the horrors of the Taliban, for whom there is no history, only God.
The plot is divided into two sections. The first is a long monologue delivered by an English woman referred to as Homebody, who is well played by Anne Scurria though her English accent wanders. This section is the strongest in the play, a sometimes brilliantly written speech from a lost soul looking for emotional tranquility in an Afghanistan travel guide.
A series of scenes set in Kabul, where Homebody has disappeared, follow the monologue. Homebody's husband and daughter come looking for her. Their relationship unravels as they confront a mystery: is homebody dead or not? Kushner is not particularly interested in the Afghan people, though he fills the play with intriguing factoids about the history of the country. A guide is too comfortably comic, though there is a memorable moment in which the speech of an Afghan native is made up of lyrics from classic American songs.
Kushner is mostly concerned with the break-up of the repressed father and needy daughter. A British diplomat who is supposed to be helping them cracks up as well. The husband and daughter are given a chance at redemption, though the circumstances are unconvincing -- they are allowed by the Taliban to bring an endangered Afghan woman home to England.
Since the New York premiere, Kushner has cut the play by at least 15 minutes -- at three and a half hours the evening is certainly long enough. Kushner made no changes in the script after 9/11 and that may weaken the play -- surely the drama's focus would be different.
Still, the Trinity Repertory Company production is appealing, though the scenes in Afghanistan could use more edge. Flawed as it is, the provocative "Homebody/Kabul" should be seen -- Kushner takes you where few American playwrights dare to go.
"Homebody/Kabul" runs through April 21, 2002 at the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island. For tickets and other information, call (401) 351-4242