Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Selling Kabul
Signature Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's recent reviews of King Lear and Into the Woods

Mazin Akar and Awesta Zarif
Photo by Christopher Mueller
United States citizens know that American troops were deployed to Afghanistan for almost 20 years following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; most of them know nothing about the lives of the Afghan people during and after that period. Through four actors on a single set, Sylvia Khoury's play Selling Kabul, now in the ARK Theatre at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, brings audiences into the reality of a population complying with the Taliban under duress, and the constant threats facing Afghan nationals who worked as partners with the Americans with the hope of getting U.S. visas.

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

By Sylvia Khoury
Directed by Shadi Ghaheri

Taroon: Mazin Akar
Afiya: Awesta Zarif
Leyla: Neagheen Homaifar
Jawid: Yousof Sultani