Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

A Thousand Splendid Suns
American Conservatory Theater
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Fool for Love and Daniel's Husband and Patrick's reviews of The Real Americans, One Stone (Einstein) and Hand to God

Barzin Akhavan, Denmo Ibrahim, and Nadine Malouf
Photo by Kevin Berne
American Conservatory Theater is presenting a powerful world premiere production of Ursula Rani Sarma's adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's international best-selling novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. This is a co-production with Theatre Calgary. A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking emotional experience. Scene after scene undermine expectations of what kind of story will be articulated. I was so engrossed with the production that time went whizzing by. Director Carey Perloff commissioned Irish-Indian playwright Ursula Rani Sarma to adapt the script and the script is brilliant.

A Thousand Splendid Suns follows the book closely. This is an impressive story of three generations of Afghan women who are bound together by marriage, family, and a secret past. It's set amid battle-torn modern-day Kabul. The drama centers on two women from obviously different classes and educational backgrounds. Laila (Nadine Malouf), whose parents were killed by a shell blast to their home, is wedded quickly to Rasheed (Haysam Kadri), a heinous man. He already has a wife, Mariam (Kate Rigg), who had a fervently disadvantaged childhood as the illegitimate and exiled daughter of a wealthy father and his servant. As the Taliban rises and Kabul falls, Mariam and Laila create a bond between them, as a woman's life is worthless in Kabul.

Carey Perloff ingeniously directs this two and a half hour, large production with 13 cast members, many of them performing dual roles. Changes of scenes are smooth. A first-rate score composed and played David Coulter of the Kronos Quartet is presented between the scene changes.

Robert Wierzel's vibrant lighting intensifies each new danger that Laila and Mariam face, with Ken MacDonald's set vibrantly showing distant mountains; their depth with light and shadows looks real.

Nadine Malouf and Kate Rigg brilliantly play Laila and Mariam. Malouf's Laila shows a laid-back empathy and infectious laughter. Riggs morphs from hate to love of Laila skillfully. Haysam Kadri expertly plays Rasheed, who is heartless from the start of the play. Nikita Tewani as Laila's daughter Aziza and Denmo Ibrahim as Laila and Mariam's mothers give excellent performances.

Bottom Line: A Thousand Splendid Suns is magnificent.

A Thousand Splendid Suns runs at ACT'S Geary Theater, 415 Geary Blvd, San Francisco from through February 26, 2017. Tickets can found as or by calling 415-749-2228. Coming up next at the ACT Strand Theater is John, running from February 22 through April 23rd, and at the main theatre, Needles and Opium, running March 30 through April 23.

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