I woke up this morning in August, 2021, in Kabul — or, more precisely inside the powerful, prescient play, “Homebody, Kabul” at the New York Theatre Workshop, 20 years ago — surrounded by Tony Kushner and Roma Torre and Carol Villano, and I knew I had been here before.
Barely a few months after the World Trade Center Towers, where I spent 6 years of my life, were destroyed, and nearly 3,000 humans slaughtered in the attack, we ventured back to Broadway, or, Off-Broadway to be exact.
It was only because a new play from the brilliant Tony Kushner was opening — his first play since “Angels in America”. Kushner wrote and rewrote “Homebody, Kabul,” for several years before 9/11, eerily warning us about the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1998 and 1999, and their appetite for brutality, inhumanity and Jihadism.
I went to see it at the recommendation of Roma Torre, then NY 1’s Theatre Critic, with whom I became friends a decade earlier, when both of us worked at News 12 Long Island. We sat in the old East 4th Street theatre for the next 4 hours, mesmerized by an opening 45 minute monologue by the actress Linda Emond, playing a lonely English woman who dreamed of the romance of old Kabul for decades.
When she lived out her dream and went to Kabul in Act 2, and her family followed to search for her, the Taliban were in-control, arresting women because of their gender, selling them off into sexual slavery, and beheading anyone who disagreed with them.
Kushner’s words, wisdom and uncompromising loyalty to telling the truth hit me like an anvil — just as “Angels” did earlier, and now, 20 years later, his words jolted me out of my sleep, when I learned that the Taliban, more violent, unforgiving and determined than ever, had, once-again, entered the gates of Kabul after thousands of deaths — American and otherwise — and billions of dollars spent battling them, across four US Administrations: two Republican, and two Democratic.
We were warned again and again about these fundamentalist terrorists, and for a whole host of reasons — some humanitarian (like preventing the repression and annihilation of women), some geopolitical (like defeating foreign terrorism) some military, and some based on pure arrogance and pride — we persisted in pursuing a doomed policy.
Now, theTaliban have come home…and so have we, and it’s unlikely that lonely English ladies will long for the long-ago romance of Kabul ever again.
If only we paid closer attention to what Tony Kushner labored mightily to tell us about Kabul.