a world premiere by Keith Anwar
September 20 – October 30, 2011
graphic design/video by jonas grey
© monkeysquared productions
"In 1940s Afghanistan, Keith Anwar’s Afghan father and expat American mother quietly struggled for rights, such as a more liberal dress code for women, before deciding they could no longer live in that country. Sixty years later, Anwar used their story as material for a play. Kabulitis tracks a Brooklyn man’s attempts to institutionalize his mother, Mildred, whose Alzheimer’s plagues her with painful memories of Afghanistan—memories that come to life and speak to her from her basement. Anwar’s work (which won Polarity’s Dionysos Cup contest in 2010) has fascinating moments...past and present weave together fluidly..."
—Time Out Chicago
"At just under two hours Kabulitis flies, leaving the audience catching their collective breath as the lights go up.... Anwar based Kabulitis on the experiences of his American mother and Afghani father, who briefly lived in Kabul, Afghanistan as part of a mid-20th century attempt to promote secularism and modern thinking. The play’s set maximizes a small space but comes off claustrophobic, with representations of a kitchen, living room and basement laundry room crowded together. However, there’s a method to designer Charles C. Palia Jr.’s madness: just as theatergoers are confined to a small, crowded room, so is Mildred (Caron Buinis) inside her own mind. Mildred is fighting two entities: the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and her well-meaning son Rob (Jonas David Grey) as he attempts to put her in a retirement home. It’s January 2002 in upstate New York, and while Mildred’s city-dwelling granddaughter Andrea (Catherine Stegemann) is still having 9/11 nightmares, Mildred recalls a different nightmare altogether. The elderly woman experiences intense flashbacks of the brutal sexism and oppression that colored her brief stay in Kabul in the 1940’s. All the while she hears the voices of her sinister brother-in-law Da’ud (Kamal Hans) and his crony Mullah (Plamen Plencheff), whom she is convinced live in her basement.
"A progressive woman in a violent landscape, both past and present. An intercultural marriage at a time when segregated drinking fountains were commonplace. The decisions a couple makes to break escape an ancient country, which will impact their loving marriage forever. A son’s quest for the truth, a young girl’s struggle to overcome a senseless trauma. Named for a disease caught by drinking from the city’s river, Kabulitis is crammed with compelling issues.... Anupama Bhatt is heartbreakingly convincing as a shamed Afghani woman.... Caron Buinis...stirring lead performance. Her Mildred is sassy but sad, humorous but pathetic, with a mouth like a straight line between two quotation marks. Without changing costumes or makeup, Buinis transcends years and mileage in seamless transitions from 2002 New York to 1940’s Kabul. Additionally, Gustavo Obregon has some nice moments as Mildred’s late husband Hamed, seen only in flashbacks and earnestly committed to the idea of a better country, while fully supporting his wife’s controversial decision not to wear the traditional Afghani veil."
—Chicago Theater Beat
"The son of an American mother and an Afghan father, he [Keith Anwar] chronicles his parents' dangerous attempts to bring Western-style modernity to mid-twentieth-century Kabul while also depicting his mother's subsequent struggle with Alzheimer's disease...a compelling tale..."
"Ten years have passed since the horrific destruction our nation as a whole faced during the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11. People have slowly rebuilt their lives piece by piece over the past decade, but many scars still remain.... In association with Rasaka Theatre Company, Polarity Ensemble Theatre’s latest production is presented at a perfect time.... Anwar’s story follows an elderly American woman by the name of Mildred (Caron Buinis) who is beginning to struggle with the chilling early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Living alone causes unsettling discomfort for her son Rob (Jonas David Grey), resulting in him moving in with her for the time being with his young daughter Andrea (Catherine Stegemann). Mildred’s basic mental foundation is slowly pulling apart as she begins to relive memories from her past when she was living in Afghanistan with her husband. The story moves back and forth between past events in Mildred’s life and the toll it has taken on her mental health today.... The ensemble behind “Kabulitis” brought a very genuine feeling of reality to the story, along with the characters of Afghanistan decent...the actors portraying the Afghan characters held a strong grip on their personas. Overall I must say Polarity and Rasaka have developed a very interesting piece they should all be proud of...an excellent show. A little hidden gem in “Kabulitis” was the rising star Catherine Stegemann, who played Mildred’s granddaughter and another young child from Mildred’s life in Afghanistan. This young actress was last seen in Steppenwolf’s Garage Rep’s “Heddatron”, and she continues to wow audiences with her level of talent at such a young age of eleven. Of course she’s backed by a strong ensemble, which is my number one reason you should experience “Kabulitis”.
—Chicago Stage Style