Theatre in Focus: Homebody/ Kabul

"There is a country so at the heart of the world the world has forgotten it, where one might seek in submission the unanswered need..."

Fiona Reid, one of Canada's leading actresses, fresh of her induction into the Order of Canada, speaks as the Homebody in Tony Kushner's newest play Homebody/ Kabul. An eerie silence fills the air as this play foreshadows its venturing into the unknown world of the Middle East; the Middle East pre-911 that we know very little, if anything, about.

Reid joins several other successful and prominent actors in this production, which, due to the content, demanded the best of its talented performers.

Homebody/ Kabul tells the story of a mother who believes her destiny is in Afghanistan. The play takes place pre-911 and at a time when the Taliban ruled supreme in the region. The Homebody disappears upon her arrival there and the play truly begins at that point as her husband and daughter arrive there in the hopes of finding her. As time wears on we see the culture clashes and also their hopes struggling to keep themselves out of harms way. We also begin to learn how life exists in this harsh environment.

"Her daughter follows in her footsteps and we share her discoveries about the harsh reality of the land of her mother's dreams, and of the people who live there, " says director John Michaelson, "in particular, about another woman, also a wife, and a reader, and someone who is also in search of freedom."

At over three hours, the play is long but in an epic sort of way. So much occurs and so many questions and topics are raised and discussed that much of the time the audience is playing catch up, not only trying to figure out the fate of all of the characters but also trying to comprehend the political system that makes the country so very different from our own.

"I think one of the keys to any successful production of Homebody/Kabul is to balance its toughness with tenderness. In other words, without muting the many dark truths it addresses about the divisive character of our modern world, it's important to affirm those more generously communal aspects of humanity".

Michaelson lets the story guide the action and the actors lead the way. We are swept all over the land in search of the Homebody, but we truly are examining a land and a culture that we are all clearly very unaware of. The themes of politics, land, women, control, and difference as well as similarities rings throughout the entire piece. There is a somber joy at the end as one life is saved in place of another.

"To the extent that it's difficult, wordy, witty, visceral, poetic, topical, relevant, risky, compassionately responsive to minority cultures, and gives presence and soulful voice to the dispossessed - in this case, to the people of Afghanistan Homebody/Kabul represents the kind of theatre Mercury has always aspired to produce with excellence. Tony Kushner is a great playwright and he uses language to dramatize emotions and ideas in a very distinctive way. Truly, it's a privilege to be presenting this exceptional play, here and now, with this cast."

Homebody/Kabul runs until June 9th and is brought to you by Mercury Theatre.

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