THREE IN DC
Love in Afghanistan at Arena Stage
Measure for Measure at Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet at the Folger
Was Roya reading Shakespeare in Kabul? The lead female in Love in Afghanistan seems an obvious worthy successor to Shakespeare’s Isabelle in Measure for Measure.
A risk taker, one focused on the noblest purposes in life, a woman who a man whether the king of the hip hop world or an Italian Prince would crystal clear know was his life mate. A woman in short phrase, unlike the rest of women, worthy to stand and speak as equal in mind and spirit.
And--here comes the plot spoiler--both walk away from all that love and praise of which so many aspire.
Roya rejects a spectacular engagement ring which promises a glamourous life, as well as her long hoped for an American visa.
In MfM, what Isabella does at the end when the Prince proposes a union is unwritten and usually staged with ambiguity. In the Shakespeare Theater production, it is clear. She walks not only off stage, but out of the theater.
The comparison struck me because I saw Arena’s Love in Afghanistan and Shakespeare Theater’s Measure for Measure within hours of each other.
Each is set in difficult political times--LiA as the Americans are getting ready to leave Kabul, and MfM re-located to Germany between the two world wars.
At the heart of both is how do we best serve when the price is sacrifice of our personal happiness.
Roya gives up what seems the easier life of being married to an American star to go back to help the women and girls in her country whose life will be more harsh under Taliban control. In America, she would be safe. In Kabul, she risks her life constantly. She loves the guy but her country women are first.
Isabelle puts life plans to enter a convent on hold to save the life of her brother who has been sentenced to death for immorality. She confronts the ultimate dilemma: the price for his life is her virginity.
No, the laws in MfM weren’t enforced by the Taliban. All ages and societies have had their strand of such strict interpreters of punishment by death for offenses.
I so wanted the lovers together, and not in death like Romeo and Juliet now at the Folger. On second thought, RaJ is resolved, theatrically at least, as maybe the best possible solution for all the human conflicts surrounding the young couple’s love. Does not the play say in the beginning, we are born to die.
The characters in MfM and LiA get to live, a realistic but sad ending for romantic loves that were at once both possible and impossible.