‘Selling Kabul’ Comes to Santa Barbara
An Afghan Family Under the Stress of War
In Selling Kabul, Ensemble Theatre Company’s newest production, an Afghan man hides out in his sister’s home in Kabul, trying to evade the Taliban. During the American occupation of Afghanistan, this man, Taroon, was a translator for the U.S. army, facilitating communication between the soldiers and the local citizens. When the Americans pulled out of the country, the Taliban sought to punish those who aided the foreigners — and Taroon is on the list. Over the course of the play, Taroon tries to smuggle himself, his wife, and his newborn son out of the country and out of harm’s way.
“It’s a beautiful play and it succeeds on so many levels because it’s a political thriller, but it’s also a real family story about people caring about each other,” says director Nike Doukas. “I think what the playwright [Sylvia Khoury] is trying to do is humanize this story that seems so remote from our experience.”
Actor Rishan Dhamija, who plays Taroon, can relate on some level to the stakes of the story. Dhamija got his green card in 2020 while Donald Trump was in power, during the pandemic. “Most of the green cards were temporarily suspended,” he says. “Trump was doing the Muslim ban at the time; that was stressful for me. I didn’t have a visa; I didn’t have a green card; my status was in limbo.”
This play is an important and timely piece of literature that speaks directly to recent world events, and situations that happen over and over in history. Doukas appreciates that this piece serves to foster empathy across cultures. “You can go to the theater and feel closer to these people,” she says, “and the world gets smaller, and the problems seem less remote, and it makes us care about each other more.”
Selling Kabul runs February 2-19 at the New Vic Theater (Previews Feb. 2-3). For more information and tickets, visit etcsb.org.
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