Actress Linda Emond, who won an Obie Award,
a Lucile Lortel Award and a Drama Desk nomination for her performance
in the original production of Tony Kushner’s "Homebody/Kabul,"
says she’s "absolutely thrilled" to be re-staging the
play at the Brooklyn Academy of Music .
Since its premiere at the New York Theatre Workshop in December 2001, "Homebody/Kabul" has been produced in London and various venues across this country, a trajectory that culminated in a Los Angeles production last fall. It will be onstage at BAM May 11 through May 30.
Emond, who will reprise her role in Brooklyn, is thrilled for two reasons. Firstly, the play will be seen by an even wider audience. And secondly, "Homebody/Kabul" premiered shortly after 9-11, and audiences saw the play in the context of that terrible tragedy, although it had been written previously.
"I felt that the play that I knew in all its complexity - some of that was lost because of when it was seen," Emond tells GO Brooklyn. "I’m happy people will have the chance to see it with distance."
She plays the "Homebody," a British wife and mother who becomes fascinated with Afghanistan after discovering Nancy Hutch Dupree’s out-of-date "A Historical Guide to the City of Kabul." When she flees her loveless marriage and disappears in Kabul, her husband (Reed Birney) and daughter (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal of "Mona Lisa Smile" and "Secretary" in her New York stage debut) try to find her in the city that has obsessed their wife and mother. Their separate odysseys engender a wealth of reflection on politics, morality and personal relationships.
Emond, who met Kushner when she was performing in "The Dying Gaul," written by Craig Lucas, a friend of Kushner, says she first saw the script in March 1999.
"It was just a one-act at that time," she explains. "Tony decided he wanted to develop it into a full-length play. I did several readings along the way." One of those readings took place in Park Slope at Congregation Kolot Chayeinu in the spring of 2001.
It was a different world then.
"At the time of the first rehearsal, Kabul was foreign. People didn’t know it was a city or how to spell it," Emond recalls. "[Right after 9-11] I knew more about Afghanistan than CNN. They had to catch up."
The latest rendition of the play was developed at the Steppenwolf Theatre, in Chicago, and Los Angeles’ Center Theatre Group. As she returns to the role, Emond faces major changes in the last third of her opening monologue.
Despite her ample experience in film, television and live theater, Emond found this text on a level of difficulty comparable to a play by Shakespeare or Brecht.
"It’s a particularly large and complex piece. The dilemmas involved in it are all the more confounding," she says.
The play is complex in several ways. First, there’s the language.
"It’s taken me a long time to make it seem like it’s coming out of someone’s mouth," says Emond. "I’ve had four years with it. It took me a long time to find the verb in the sentences."
Then there’s the technical challenges.
"There’s a 53-minute monologue. The level of focus required as a sole person is extremely difficult."
And finally, there’s the emotional and psychological demands.
"It asks me as an artist to dig down deep and use everything I’ve learned."
Emond has been seen on television in such New York-based series as "Law & Order" and the "Sopranos," as well as on film playing opposite Robert DeNiro in "City by the Sea." She also has considerable experience doing voice-overs and text-based recordings.
"I’m better as an actor and a person when I do a variety of stuff. It exercises the muscles," she maintains.
Nevertheless, Emond says, "There’s no way you can replace the thrill of being onstage."
This month, Emond and "Homebody/Kabul" audiences will have the opportunity to experience that thrill when she makes her BAM debut in the play she calls, "big, beautiful, complex, intriguing and deeply provocative."
"Homebody/Kabul" plays May 11-15, May 18-22 and May 25-29 at 7:30 pm, and May 15, 16, 22, 23, 29 and 30 at 1 pm at BAM’s Harvey Theatre, at 651 Fulton St. between Ashland and Rockwell places in Fort Greene. Tickets are $25, $45 and $65. For tickets and more information, call (718) 636-4100 or visit the Web site at www.bam.org.