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‘Selling Kabul’ Review: Found in Translation

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Selling Kabul (★★★★☆) at Signature Theatre might have been able to hear the actors’ hearts racing.The Afghanistan-set drama by Sylvia Khoury, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2022, draws us fully inside the humble, endangered lives of Taroon (Mazin Azar), a translator desperately awaiting a visa to flee Kabul, and his sister Afiya (Awesta Zarif).

Afiya, along with husband Jawid (Yousof Sultani), risks freedom and safety by hiding Taroon from the Taliban, and from the couple’s nosy neighbor, Leyla (Neagheen Homaifar).Ghaheri’s production draws us close inside the characters’ dire reality, and Afiya and Jawid’s cozy apartment, rendered in textured, naturalistic detail by Tony Cisek.Images on the living room television of former Afghan president Hamid Karzai — with Obama, with Putin — usher in the atmosphere of 2013 and America’s longest war, reinforced by the heap of Army fatigues piled in a corner.

Well-timed sound design by Matt Otto extends the fraught atmosphere to the streets unseen beyond the apartment walls.Who knows what enemies lie in wait for Taroon out there, but we can take his word — and Azar’s convincing performance — as all the proof we need that he’s wise to lay as low as possible.

He’s been doing so for months, sometimes even hiding in Afiya’s coat closet. Yet, he also has the most compelling reason for wanting to break from hiding, and perhaps into a trap: Taroon’s wife just gave birth, two weeks early, to their son inside a hospital somewhere across the city.But, as Afiya insists, nowhere in the city is safe for someone like Taroon, listed by the Taliban as a collaborator with the U.S.

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