CFN Attends Opening Night of Theatre Calgary's A Thousand Splendid Suns

Photo courtesy LA Times
As the curtains rose Friday night, the visual grandeur that envelopes A Thousand Splendid Suns, a world premiere co-production from Theatre Calgary and San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre, was on full display.  An ethereal moon rises softly over an aching violet sky, enlightening the desolate mountains below and the backdrop of the enormous tableau that changes throughout with poignant lighting and the subtle movement of time.

The story, based on Khaled Hosseini's follow-up to The Kite Runner and adapted for the stage by Ursula Rani Sarma, is set in Afghanistan and is about a free-spirited young girl named Laila who loses her family to an attack on the city. Just 15 and alone, she marries Rasheed - a much older man who is a product of the oppressive and misogynistic culture in which he was raised. Laila seeks comfort from Rasheed's first wife Mariam. From the dishonour of her illegitimate birth, to her being unable to have children, to now being replaced by a younger wife, she has already long suffered a life of relentless torment by the time Laila arrives in her home.

Photo courtesy Mercury News
Whereas The Kite Runner concentrates on fathers and sons, A Thousand Splendid Suns traverses the lives of mothers and daughters, as the two women become implausible partners in the face of an unsympathetic and inescapable destiny. They suffer mental abuse, physical beatings, out right starvation and even the constant threat of death. Living out their lives together under the same roof and sharing the same abusive husband, together they do their best to raise a child. And it is this heartfelt collaboration that produces their very survival.

There is no hint of pretence in either the story or the incredible performances of the two female leads, which explains why there was noticeable sobbing throughout theatre on this opening night. No, it is not an easy story to digest. Not in the slightest. Women are pounded into the ground in this world, an element that is vital to the weight of Hosseini's story. That being said, by the end of the tale the audience is not only left with tears, but with the fire of beauty within. A Thousand Splendid Suns, above all else, is a story of life and the hope that will always fuel it, the bravery that comes with offering another soul loyalty and love, and the inescapable struggle that comes with living out the human experience.

Photo courtesy Mercury News
CFN would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Theatre Calgary for the invitation to not only attend what was an amazing performance, but also for highlighting, and thus making,  7 members of the CFN staff a part of this very special event for Calgary.  Theatre Calgary interviewed immigrant women living throughout our city about their journey to Canada and share their stories in visual displays throughout the Max Bell Theatre lobby. An additional thank you to Jennifer Taylor for her efforts in working with our staff to make this part of A Thousand Splendid Suns run come to fruition. And last but not least, CFN salutes Theatre Calgary for bringing such stories to our city, stories that shape and define us. We look forward to working with you again and keep up the great work. For a few photos of the evening CLICK HERE.