Called “stiff” by some, “faithful to a fault” by others and “satisfying and soulful” by others, it’s safe to say the stage adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner opened to very mixed reviews. Most fault and/or praise seemed to rest on critics views of Matthew Spangler’s script – while some felt it too packed, others were grateful that all of the book’s many twists and turns were incorporated. Amir Arison gets mostly positive reviews for his marathon of a performance that has him time-traveling between his character’s younger and older selves and never leaving the stage for the duration of the show, but the direction and design left many wanting for much more. While some moments and imagery succeeded wildly, while others felt bare and lacking, forced or rushed. With reviews this mixed, the only way to know if the show is for you is to make your way to the Helen Hayes Theater yourself to judge for yourself.
The New York Times Review of The Kite Runner
Unsurprisingly, the most memorable image in “The Kite Runner,” which opened at the Helen Hayes Theater on Thursday night, is of the kites. They’re miniature, attached to thin poles that several actors wave, white tissue-paper flitting, birdlike, over their heads. The paper crinkles as the kites part the air with a soft swish. If only the rest of this stiff production, adapted by Matthew Spangler from the popular 2003 novel by Khaled Hosseini, exuded such elegance. … Under Giles Croft’s direction, Arison’s Broadway debut proves spotty. He recites his opening lines with the stiffness of a child delivering a book report, and never totally eases into the role…[and] Croft’s mechanical direction often plays up the pathos. … Still, “The Kite Runner” is not nearly as rich as the spate of Off Broadway plays that have recently explored the individual and national losses faced by Iran and Afghanistan… As Off Broadway has often proved, there are more compelling ways to tell a story.
Deadline Review of The Kite Runner
Despite its heartfelt intentions and some impressive performances, The Kite Runner doesn’t improve in any significant way over The Kite Runner on screen. And it’s a whole lot talkier. At times seeming more like an elaborately staged reading of the novel – an audio book come to life – than a fully realized play, The Kite Runner tells the story (and “tells” is the operative word) of Amir (winningly played by Amir Arison) over the course of a couple decades. … As characters clash, get sick, die and talk about all of it, The Kite Runner begins to suggest that playwright Spangler just couldn’t bring himself to leave one page of the novel page unused. … The tale inevitably rests on the shoulders of actor Arison, and while he handles the twists and turns and sweetnesses and betrayals adeptly enough, his ultimate empowerment via a sudden, heretofore unexpressed interest in religion is neither credible nor dramatically satisfying.
The New York Post Review of The Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 tearjerker novel “The Kite Runner” has no shortage of terrible traumas: deaths, beatings, a rape, the disastrous takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. To say the very least, it’s a lot. … Onstage, of course, we don’t have hundreds of pages to let the ambitious tale breathe. We’ve got 2½ hours. So the sheer number of tragedies makes “The Kite Runner” an especially tough story to adapt without turning it into a soap opera — an emotional shellacking. That treacherous trap, however, is shrewdly avoided on Broadway, where a moving stage adaptation of the book opened Thursday night, because of the actors’ radiating warmth and the production’s generosity of spirit. It’s a straightforward, to-the-point play, but one that’s easy to embrace and gripping as it unfurls. … Still, as far as literary stage adaptations go — a touch-and-go genre if there ever was one — “The Kite Runner” is enormously satisfying and soulful.
The New York Theatre Guide Review of The Kite Runner
[T]he play, which tries to soar beyond its origins as a novel…remains steadfastly bound by its source material. … The play doesn’t give The Kite Runner new dimensions, as an adaptation should. Instead, it feels like a CliffsNotes version of the novel. … If only The Kite Runner on Broadway depended less on the novel and trusted more on its stagecraft. There might have been more moments like this, of flight and transcendence.