Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Director Shadi Ghaheri keeps the pressure building throughout the 90-minute runtime, making the audience feel the same relentless tension and threat as the characters do. The script is never preachy because it doesn't have to be; the story tells itself.
Khoury's play, a finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize, focuses on Taroon (Mazin Akar), who had been a translator for a U.S. soldier but now has been in hiding from the Taliban for four months. He is living under wraps in the apartment of his sister and brother-in-law, Afiya (Awesta Zarif) and Jawid (Yousof Sultani), awaiting the birth of his child, watching television news reports (the time is during the Obama administration), and constantly expecting to receive visa information from the U.S. government. He is proud of his service and angry that Jawid and Afiya do business with the Taliban through their tailor shop; they explain that their lives would all be threatened if they didn't go along with the regime.
Tony Cisek's scenic design shows the constrictions and threats these people face every day: no one, not even family friend and neighbor Leyla (Neagheen Homaifar), can know the truth about Taroon, and they use ventilation fans to cover the noise of their daily lives. The apartment would be tight on space for just two residents; the need to hide a third would be farcical if it wasn't so dangerous.
All four actors give exemplary performances, led by Akar's anger, frustration, and occasional desire to forget caution and strike back against an enemy waiting to destroy him. The key to the characters is that they do their best to survive and prevail despite real, constant threats, at the risk of their peace of mind.
Selling Kabul runs through April 2, 2023, at Signature Theatre, ARK Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington VA. For tickets and information, please call 703-820-9771 or visit www.SigTheatre.org.
By Sylvia Khoury