Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Kite Runner
National Tour Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

The Cast
Photo by Bekah Lynn Photography
The Kennedy Center in Washington is hosting the national touring production of The Kite Runner in its Eisenhower Theater through June 30. Matthew Spangler's adaptation of the novel by Khaled Hosseini tells a serious story of the bond between two boys who grow up together in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the lasting connections forged by love and responsibility, but director Giles Croft keeps the story from becoming grim or overly literal, even in its darkest moments.

Croft is working with a skilled design team who conjures the cities of Kabul and, later, San Francisco through evocative non-representational scenic design by Barney George, who also designed the costumes, assisted by Charles Balfour's lighting design, William Simpson's projections, and composer Jonathan Girling's continuous underscoring.

The story begins in 1973 and follows the friendship of Amir (Ramzi Khalaf), son of a wealthy Kabul businessman (Haythem Noor), and Hassan (Shahzeb Zahid Hussein), son of a family servant (Hassan Nazari-Robati). As a boy, Amir can overlook that Hassan and Ali live in a mud hut behind his family's luxurious home, and he doesn't understand the implications of Hassan–whom he treats as a brother–being a member of a lower social class that follows a different branch of Islam.

While young Amir is more interested in reading and becoming a writer than in sports, to his father's distress, Hassan gains a reputation as a "kite runner." During the city's annual kite festival, children compete to cut down each other's kites in flight by coating the strings of their kites with a mixture of glue and ground glass. Hassan's success indirectly leads to Amir distancing himself from him through several acts of betrayal.

Amir and his father flee Afghanistan in 1979 following the country's invasion by Soviet military forces. They settle in San Francisco, where Amir becomes a respected author and marries a fellow emigrant, Soraya (Awesta Zarif), daughter of a pompous former Afghan Army general (James Rana). Eventually circumstances take Amir back to Kabul on a mission to rescue Sohrab (also Hussain), Hassan's orphaned son, from mistreatment in a Taliban-run orphanage.

The light touch of Spangler's words and Croft's direction acknowledge the grim, brutal underpinnings of the story without overemphasizing them. Much of the staging is beautiful just to see: the projections of soaring kites on the backdrop; the warm sunlight; the richness of the furnishings in Baba's house (represented by brocaded draperies that sweep in and out) and the vivid colors of the costumes; the way actors enter and leave the stage on sweeping ramps on each side.

Khalaf has to carry the story, which he does with great sensitivity as Amir navigates his life and works through his guilt and regrets. Hussain is heartbreakingly earnest as Hassan faces challenges without compromising his beliefs. Salar Nader performs throughout on the tabla, a traditional Afghan musical instrument that provides the heartbeat of the production.

The Kite Runner runs through June 30, 2024, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Eisenhower Theater, 2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC. For tickets and information, please call 800-444-1324 or 202-467-4600 or visit For information on the tour, visit

Adapted by Matthew Spangler
Based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini
Directed by Giles Croft

Tabla Artist: Salar Nader
Amir: Ramzi Khalaf
Rahim Khan/Dr. Schneider/Omar Faisal: Jonathan Shaboo
Hassan/Sohrab: Shahzeb Zahid Hussain
Ali/Farad: Hassan Nazari-Robati
Baba: Haythem Noor
Assef: Wiley Naman Strasser
Wali/Doctor: Danish Farooqui
Kamal/Zaman: Jade Ziane
Ensemble/Pomegranate Lady/Andrews: Sophie Zmorrod
Ensemble/Merchant/Russian Soldier: Kevin Stevens
General Taheri: James Rana
Soraya: Awesta Zarif