Tony Kushner's newest play started making headlines well before it had its world premiere in New York back in December. The reasons why are obvious: The majority of the story takes place in Afghanistan and revolves around life under the Taliban regime. In addition, Kushner is the provocative dramatist of the groundbreaking, seven-hour Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. Wednesday night the highly anticipated Berkeley Rep production of Homebody/Kabul opens to hungry crowds and critics, many of whom are expecting it to be the Bay Area theater event of the season.
Homebody/Kabul is typical Kushner: political, lengthy, timely, and gripping.
Opens at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, and runs through June 23
Tickets are $16-54
Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison (between Shattuck and Milvia), Berkeley
Running over 3 1/2 hours, Homebody/ Kabulis something of a saga, telling the story of an Englishwoman (i.e., the Homebody) who decides to escape her unfulfilling life by journeying to Afghanistan. When she doesn't return home, her husband and daughter attempt to find her in the Taliban-controlled city of Kabul, where some say she's dead and others claim she has married a local and denounced her Western ways. At its heart, the play is about the struggles of three women: the Homebody, her angry daughter, and an Afghan woman named Mahala, oppressed in a perpetually war-torn land.
Although Homebody/Kabulwas written before Sept. 11, the media have focused more on the play's relevance to current events than on the play itself, often expressing amazement at Kushner's foresight. (Many ignore the fact that Afghanistan was in dire straits well before September.) The topic is such a live wire that some folks have voiced concern about whether it's in good taste to produce art that hits such a recently exposed nerve. But plenty of artists have put the heavy stuff on the back burner for the past seven months, trying to make audiences laugh and forget. The time has come to bring some heft back to the stage. We're ready for the drama, Mr. Kushner. We're eager to feel again.