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NEW YORK _ "Homebody/Kabul," a new work of art by playwright Tony Kushner, arrives in timely fashion and with a whiff of controversy.
The timeliness is certain. Written over the last four years and completed before Sept. 11, it takes place mostly in Afghanistan, a territory we all have come to know to some extent in the last few months. The controversy, which pivots on the withholding for undeclared reasons of a $60,000 grant by the National Endowment for the Arts to the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, which plans to stage the play next spring, is undeserved.
Though the play concerns the tattered history and the terrible present suffering of Afghanistan, it is not likely to elicit great sympathy for the Taliban. And though it takes up the sins of the West in its past and current dealings with this ancient land, it is not a flaming denunciation of Western civilization (or America the Beautiful).
A political liberal, Kushner is, above all, a humanist, an artist who looks with hope for the connections between all men and, in so doing, laments the conditions that have torn them apart. "Homebody/Kabul" is not about good people versus bad people. It is a play about people caught in a clash of cultures that has corroded …