This week, in the Napa Valley Register, Sasha Paulsen asks all of the questions that come up when one hears about The Great Game: Afghanistan -- and then she answers them in cogent, passionate prose. It's rare that one reads a review this thorough and heartfelt:
All during the drive to Berkeley, Afghanistan kept surfacing in NPR news reports: Had fraud invalidated the recent elections; was it necessary for the Afghan government to negotiate with the Taliban; why was Secretary of State Hilary Clinton declaring Pakistan is the U.S.’s greatest ally in defeating terrorism?
The drone of these news stories, day after day, can be numbing. Set against it is the fact that a 21-year-old Napa man, Army Spc. Chase Stanley, died last July in this conflict.
He was one of 62,415 troops from 46 countries currently in Afghanistan, and to the military fatalities must be added the deaths of thousands of civilians — and thousands more if one goes back to the beginnings of this “Great Game,” according to information in the “The Great Game” program.
Theatrical questions arise: Can ‘entertainment’ be made of this? Is this issue so important one can dispense with entertainment and just be enlightened? Is it possible to entertain and inform? Is it possible that entertainment can prove more enlightening that “just the facts?” Twelve playwrights on one vast, complex, bewildering topic: We were going to watch blind men describing an elephant?
... Eleven hours later, on the drive back to Napa from Berkeley, slightly foggy-headed but oddly exhilarated, I was listening to NPR again.
The news stories were the same as they’d been that morning: the election fraud, Hilary Clinton and the Pakistanis, could the U.S. hold Kandahar, and can anyone negotiate with the Taliban?
These complex stories, however, had acquired faces and voices, amid drumbeats of history and human folly. And that, in the end, is the affect of great, of brilliant theater.
If you've already seen the show, or if you're trying to decide if you want to see it, Sasha's story will undoubtedly speak to you. Read the entire review here.
There's one more week of The Great Game. It closes next Sunday, November 7, and then heads off to New York.
Photo of Danny Rahim in The Great Game: Afghanistan by John Haynes