Written three years before the historic events of September 11, 2001, Homebody/Kabul has been called prophetic. Tony Kushner’s play examines the history and politics of contemporary Afghanistan, a country whose complex history includes multiple conquests and wars—political and religious—and that resembles a postmodern Babel, where ethnicities, religions, and languages all mix in a sort of exhausted disarray. When Frank Sinatra’s voice is heard singing, it represents the Western romanticism of tourism, a luxury whose participants—in their objectification of the exotic Other—are often ignorant about the hardships of the world, as Homebody self-deprecatingly accuses herself to be.
Homebody/Kabul explores the history of violence in Afghanistan. Through the slightly delusional romanticism of Homebody and her readings from An Historical Guide to Kabul, the country and its people have a chance to appear beautiful, albeit ravaged. They seem worthy of Homebody’s love, and she, as one who still loves the world purely and idealistically, inspires empathy toward Afghanistan. When the first production of Homebody/Kabul opened at the end of 2001, most American audiences were looking for answers, causes, or connections to their national tragedy. However, the play is not about causes. It is about the immense suffering and chaos of the postcolonial and postimperialist world, regardless of one’s citizenship.
The plot follows the journey of the Ceilings, a dysfunctional family. They are the narrative vehicle driving the audience’s journeys from the West to the East and back. The theme of family is thus explored through its relationship to, and transformations within, the postcolonial and postmodern world. Before each of them journeys to Afghanistan, the Ceilings live in a home already ridden with multiple symptoms of postmodern existence, including depression, suicide, prescription drugs, and a lack of communication and affection. Priscilla dislikes if not despises her mother for her eccentric ways. Homebody is obsessed with language. Her sentences are long and filled with complicated words. For a woman of so many words, however, she fails to communicate with her own daughter.
(The entire section is 924 words.)