Veteran Kiwi playwright Stuart Hoar has crafted a stimulating drama on New Zealand's involvement in the maelstrom of Middle Eastern politics. Along the way he scatters whimsical and erudite musings on feminist theory, metaphysical poetry and the unresolved clash between liberal tolerance and terrorist violence.
It's a heady mixture that director Katie Wolfe brings together in a taut, engaging and often amusing 90 minutes.
The scene changes are a triumph of theatrical design with the action swinging seamlessly from a gun-point rendezvous in the Syrian dessert, to a nondescript venue at the Auckland Writer's Festival and onto Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas.
John Verryt's minimalist set establishes a sweeping panorama for Harley Campbell's superb video projections which are neatly enhanced by Sean Lynch's sound effects.
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The characters are multi-layered personalities and much of the drama comes from sudden revelations that people are far more complex that they seem. A terrific cast do a fine job of reconciling character traits that appear impossibly conflicted on paper.
Nicole Kawana convincingly plays an army Major who spouts apocalyptic religious prophesies while championing a feminist reconstruction of New Zealand's armed forces; Simon London pulls off an even more daunting study of contrasts as he weaves together, ironic literary theory, an earnest commitment to Enlightenment values and a spirited defense of American military interventionism.
Ban Abdul movingly evokes the horrors endured by ISIS war brides while showing a ruthless determined to escape the brutality of her situation.
The more down-to-earth characters anchor the drama with Edwin Wright bringing an endearing quality to a bumbling Kiwi convert to Islam who loses his nativity in a brutal encounter with Jihadist fundamentalism.
Fasitua Amosa expertly captures the laconic cynicism of an ex-SAS mercenary and Anna Jullienne expresses the plucky spirit of a kindergarten teacher who regains her bearings after being swept off her feet by the urbane charm of a US poetry enthusiast.
Where & When: ASB Waterfront Theatre, until October 3
Reviewed by: Paul Simei-Barton