play by American playwright Tony Kushner
, about the disappearance of a British woman in Taliban
The play first gained attention for its prescience. When the off-Broadway New York Theatre Workshop first approached Kushner in 1999 about developing the play, no one was interested in Afghanistan. However, after the attacks on New York of September 11, Kushner's lines had an eerie resonance.
An Afghan woman in the play rants on the world's indifference to the Taliban's reign of terror. "Where is America? You love the Taliban so much, bring them to New York.... Don't worry, they're coming to New York."
Later, an Afghan character asks a British visitor, "What has the West ever brought us but misery? Some of us would like to bring our misery to you." (Kushner wrote those lines in 2000).
The play also gained attention in the media for perceived controversy in Washington. Acting chair of the National Endowment for the Arts Robert S. Martin held up an approved grant to the Berkeley Repertory Theatre to produce the play. The media assumed that the only reason the federal government would hold up money supporting a Pulitzer prize winning playwright's new work was political--either to punish Berkeley for its anti-war stance or to spare the Bush administration any possible embarassment over spending government funds on a play about a country they were about to bomb. (The grant was eventually approved-- most likely after someone at the NEA sat down and read the play).
The play's three acts run over three hours, and begins with an hour-long monologue from the "homebody," a British woman fascinated with Afghanistan. The monologue was inspired by Kushner's lifelong fascination with the country, and instigated by British actress Kika Markham,
who asked Kushner to write a monologue for her in 1997. Jim Nicola, artistic director of New York Theatre Workshop, wanted him to expand the monologue into a full length play. Acts II and III concern the homebody's husband and daughter's adventures in Kabul trying to track down the missing woman.
The play premiered at the New York Theatre Workshop December 19, 2001, with the following cast and crew:
- Director: Declan Donnellan
- Scenic designer: Nick Ormerod
- Lighting designer: Brian MacDevitt
- Sound designer: Dan Moses Schreier
- The Homebody: Linda Emond
- Dr. Qari Shah: Joseph Kamal
- Mullah Ali Aftar Durranni: Firdous Bamji
- Milton Ceiling: Dylan Baker
- Quango Twistleton: Bill Camp
- Priscilla Ceiling: Kelly Hutchinson
- A Munkrat: Kariush Kashani
- Khwaja Aziz Mondanbosh: Yusef Bulos
- Zai Garshi/The Marabout: Sean T. Krishnan
- Mahala: Rita Wolf
After New York, Homebody/Kabul will be produced in Providence
, Rhode Island, at Trinity Rep
, directed by Oskar Eustis, and Berkeley, California, at Berkeley Rep, directed by Tony Taccone (Eustis and Taccone both worked with Kushner on the world premiere of Angels in America
at the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco
Like all of Kushner's works, the play explores the relationship between the political and the personal. Mirroring the theme of the inability of cultures to comprehend and assimilate each other, portions of the dialogue are in Dari, Pashto, Esperanto, German, and French, but not translated for the audience. New York critics called the play "ambitious," "exasperating," "passionate and fascinating," "occasionally incoherent," "overlong," and "absurdly dated."
Gerard Raymond, "The Afghan Road Show," The Village Voice, 5 December 2001, <www.villagevoice.com> (11 January 2002)
Michael Kuchwara, "Afghanistan drew Kusher to write 'Homebody/Kabul,'" MSNBC, 6 December 2001, <http://www.msnbc.com/news/668079.asp?cp1=1> (11 January 2002)
Gerald Rabkin, Review of Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul, Culturevulture.net,3 January 2002, <http://www.culturevulture.net/Theater2/HomebodyKabul.htm> (11 January 2002)