These Suns can sear.
These Suns can warm.
These Suns can burn away the darkest shadows — and vanquish the gods of war with the healing power of love.
The acclaimed drama A Thousand Splendid Suns — which continues at the Grand Theatre’s Spriet Stage — is capable of all those solar supermagicks and more. The production was adapted for the stage by Ursula Rani Sarma from Khaled Hosseini’s novel.
The Afghan setting of A Thousand Splendid Suns has been explored effectively elsewhere. The lament for a once beautiful nation as it descends into chaos and cruelty during the 1990s is powerful as characters recall the Kabul and countryside that once were.
In the place of that departed “Splendid” past is a present with the characters trapped in a seemingly endless desert.
There are scenes of graphic sexual violence, violent deaths — including one applauded (for good reasons) on opening night (March 16) — and a birth by C-section, with the baby delivered by caring and competent medical professionals in an operating “theatre” of brutal desperation.
At the centre of the Afgan epic is a love/hate triangle as Laila (Mirian Katrib) and Mariam (Deena Aziz) forge an alliance of Ibsenesque intensity to battle their cruel husband Rasheed (Anousha Alamian).
As their story of love and hate during wartime twists and turns, two of the three must die so the third may live in a renewed world of love.
Like the rest of the outstanding cast, Katrib, Aziz and Alamian are making their Grand debuts. Crucial to the arc of Splendid Suns toward new beginnings safely away from Kabul is Shelly Anthony, the strongest of the good and decent men who strive to protect Laila and Mariam from Rasheed and other enemies.
Also is impressive is young London actor Hayden Baertsoen as Laila and Rasheed’s son Zalmai. A multi-dimensional talent, Hayden was among the stars in a recent Dance Steps production of The Nutcracker Ballet.
The Grand’s brilliant A Thousand Splendid Suns is presented in collaboration with San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre where the adaptation premiered in 2016.
Haysam Kadri directs at the Grand and the production is based on the original staging of the ACT’s Carey Perloff.
Elements taken from the San Francisco staging include the set designed by Ken MacDonald, who also worked on Blind Date at the Grand. The Splendid Suns set lends a mythic, folktale quality to the scenes of urban and pastoral life and strife in the foreground. Which is a compelling combination.
So. Yes. A Thousand Splendid Suns is, well, splendid. Find yourself in its heat.
What: A new, all-Canadian production of A Thousand Splendid Suns. Continues at Grand Theatre, 471 Richmond St,, until March 31. Tickets, $30-$84. Visit grandtheatre.com or call 519-672-8800.
Benefit performance: Proceeds from 2 p.m. performance on March 24 will be donated to Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan). A panel discussion on Afghanistan’s future follows.
James Stewart Reaney keeps James’s Brander Newer Blogger at LondonFuse.ca as part of his volunteerism and reverence for London A&E. He retired from The London Free Press in early 2017 after more than 30 years covering everything from A — The Alcohollys — to B: baseball’s 1986 World Series. Follow his Twitter #ldnont thoughts via @JamesSReaney