Sirakian Makes The Kite Runner Soar

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2022 at 9:17 am

The younger fellow you see here in the photo is Eric Sirakian, and he is the best reason to see The Kite Runner. The task he faces with every performnce is monumental, for he is required to break your heart not once, but twice, in each act of a decidedly mixed bag of a play.

And, glory be, that is exactly what he does, bringing mysterious commitment and untold passion to two roles: first, of Hassan, a boy who is the best friend of Amir (Amir Arison), the story’s complex narrator, and then playing Sohrab, the son of that boy. Without him, the play, set first in oppressive, strife-torn Kabul and then Los Angeles, refuge of the newly free, by Matthew Spangler, adapted from Khaled Hossein’s beloved book, and directed with spotty panache by Giles Croft, would be a sometimes turgid, heavy-handed and quite manipulative piece – the type of thing which cheaply wrenches tears from the audience over a false alarm death scene. The cast is led by Arison – recounting certain turbulent events of his past, – whose slick and glib TV-inured acting reads as just that – acting, and the synthetic histrionic torrents he calls up, instead of simply BEING, is in marked contrast to Sirakian, who merely but signally exists truthfully onstage with such organic aplomb. Two other cast stand-outs are Faran Tahir, effectively forceful as Amir’s ever-disapproving father, and Azita Ganizada, who has a fresh and charming appeal as our narrator’s wife.

But I keep coming back to Sirakian, who, like no other actor in all my long playgoing experience, had me holding back embarassngly loud, wracking sobs during his big scene of rejection by Amir, which called up every betrayed friendship I’ve known personally, or even read about. And damn it, if – just after I’d sufficiently composed myself during intermission – this kid didn’t rake me emotionally all over the coals again, with another desperately pleading, thwarted moment with Amir in that aforementioned second act.

It all just verified once more the true power of acting when it is this great. Moments like Brando with Rod Steiger in the back seat of that car in On the Waterfront, or Hepburn, so ravaged and terribly alone in the house in Long Day’s Journey into Night, as the sun sets, leaving her to face all those excruciating hours in the dark, or, earlier in her career, as poor Alice Adams, being so desperate at a party to make an impression among rich snobs who will never accept her. Onstage, there has been Francis Conroy as the terrible alcoholic, Mrs. Constable, in the Lincoln Center revival of Jane Bowles’ brilliant In the Summer House, proving that she was the only one involved, including Director Joanne Akalaitis, who even knew from the play. I recall Irene Worth in Sweet Bird of Youth, facing the house from the stage and using the audience, instead of co-star Christopher Walken, as recipient of her gaudily magnificent monologues, one more theatrical moment which destroys you with its consummate truth and beauty, and will vividly live on within you forever.

And you, too, can experience this rarest kind of miracle, which is happening on a regular basis, at a theater named after a woman who was herself capable of such wonder, Helen Hayes. Gloriously abetted by handsome tabla virtuoso Sala Nader, a 20-something RADA/Yale-trained marvel making his Broadway debut, whose bruised voice, huge poignant eyes and performing genius evoke the young and quite beautiful Peter Lorre, long before he became Guignol fodder – and was then, after the empathy he was somehow able to muster as the child murderer in M (1930), possibly the greatest living actor – is doing this eight times a week.

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