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The Kite Runner at Kennedy Center Proves Relevant and Compelling

The Kite Runner at Kennedy Center Proves Relevant and Compelling

The Kite Runner
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Jordan Wright
June 28, 2024

The Kite Runner (Photo Via The Kennedy Center)

‘I became what I am today at the age of twelve,” recalls narrator and protagonist, Amir (Ramzi Khalaf) in the The Kite Runner. It opens in 1973 when Ari was a child living in a large house in Kabul with his father, Baba (Haythem Noor), a successful businessman. Young Hassan (Shahzeb Zahid Hussain also in the role of Farid) lived on the grounds in a nearby hut and was close to Amir’s age. The boys become inseparable, until Amir betrays him, abandons him and suffers from the guilt.

For a production that has enjoyed numerous versions since 2007, The Kite Runner is surprisingly relevant. This latest version landed at the Kennedy Center at the end of its national tour with a very short four-night run. If you didn’t catch it (there are two more nights) or have never seen it, I hope you can snag a few tickets. Set in Afghanistan after the fall of the monarchy, the Russian army’s ten-year occupation and battles against the mujahideen and other foreign factions, and the subsequent occupation by the ultra-conservative religious Taliban, who found new ways to suppress the culture while claiming they were helping the country get back to its roots, it recalls the struggles of a country that already had suffered from internecine religious and tribal conflicts.

Women were beaten in the streets if any parts of their bodies or hair were showing, school for females was shot down, flouters of the new rules were decapitated in public stadiums where attendance was required, dancing, radios and TV were banned and one of the nation’s most popular pastimes, kite flying was forbidden, which is what brings us to this compelling story from best-selling author, Khaled Hosseini.

The Kite Runner (Photo Via The Kennedy Center)

The parallels to current religious wars, massive refugee horrors, internecine tribal warfare and the slaughter of innocent civilians are all too familiar. In this gripping drama we have the advantage of gallows humor to ameliorate the horrors of war.

If you’re a news hound and have followed the trajectory of these stories over the years, you will find yourself satisfied and even amused by how everyday people navigate the most horrific situations. It’s somehow rewarding to appreciate the bravery and resilience of the ordinary citizen caught up in a insidious battle by forces craving domination of an entire culture.

The Kite Runner (Photo Via The Kennedy Center)

With a remarkable cast, several from the original Broadway cast, this production is a can’t miss. Compelling, gripping, slyly acerbic and, above all, necessary. You’ll wonder how Ari, a most unlikely hero, was able to escape the war, find a new life in America, a loving wife, Soraya (Awesta Zarif) and redemption from his past cowardliness under the most dangerous conditions.

With Jonathan Shaboo as Rahim Khan/Dr. Schneider/Omar Faisal; Haythem Noor as Baba; Hassan Nazari-Robati as Ali/Farid; Wiley Naman Strasser as Assef; Danish Farooqui as Wali/Doctor; Jade Zian as Kamal/Zaman; Sophie Zmorrod Ensemble/Pomegranate Lady/Andrews; Kevin Stevens Ensemble/Merchant/Russian Soldier; James Rana as General Taheri; Salar Nader as Tabla Artist.

Adapted by Matthew Spangler; Directed by Giles Croft; Scenic and Costume Design by Barney George; Lighting Design by Charles Balfour; Sound Design by Drew Baumohl; Projection Design by William Simpson; Composer & Music Supervisor Jonathan Girling.

Through June 30th at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20566. For tickets and information call the box office at 202 467-4600 or visit

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