The Arts Club Theatre Company’s 56th Season opened with A Thousand Splendid Suns at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre.
Written by Ursula Rani Sarma is based on the acclaimed book by Khaled Hosseini A Thousand Splendid Suns is a richly crafted drama, spanning the years from the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan to the rise of the Taliban. Following the lives of two women, of different generations and backgrounds, thrown together by life’s circumstances, A Thousand Splendid Suns tells a family story of mothers and daughters.
Young Laila, (Anita Majumdar) left orphaned when a shell lands on her family home, is rescued from the rubble by neighbour Rasheed… but as he takes her as a second wife, what did he actually rescue her from?
Mariam, (Deena Aziz) Rasheed’s first wife, was essentially orphaned as well, having been sent away by her birth father after the death of her mother, with whom she lived in isolation due to being a result of an affair.
When they’re thrown together as the abusive Rasheed’s wives, animosity is too kind of a word for their relationship. After Laila gives birth, much to Rasheed’s disappointment, to a girl, the ladies start to warm. In a role that would have easily strayed into an angry caricature, Anousha Alamian plays Rasheed with a sense of genuine misogyny from a broken man grasping to maintain his status in the world.
With the background of the war torn country, Rasheed’s growing sympathies to the new Taliban regime, and abusive treatment of his wives, the real power of A Thousand Splendid Suns is the relationship between the two ladies. Mariam and Laila become like mother and daughter, sometimes alternating between the roles. Throughout the play we learn more of the ladies’ backstories through flashback scenes .
In spite of the action being brutal and violent at times, the play somehow maintains a sense of calm. Mses. Majumdar and Aziz deliver a genuine rapport that shifts from antagonistic to loving. The characters keep their heads and present a peaceful front as though nothing more can surprise them after all they’re lived through. Ken MacDonald’s beautiful set, Robert Wierzel’s lighting and David Coulter’s music combine to add subtle emotion throughout the acts.
The Arts Club Theatre Company, with Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, presents A Thousand Splendid Suns until October 13, 2019 at Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre. Showtimes, and tickets are available online at artsclub.com