Get Your War On
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
January 10, 2007
Get Your War On is a comedy (satire) about the last five and a half years of American history. Already perhaps you see the problem with this: since 9/11, very little that's humorous has occurred in the United States. Poking irreverent fun at the Bush administration's policies and the American people's frightening apathy doesn't strike me as particularly entertaining or useful at this stage of the game. The press release for the show says that Get Your War On "exhumes images of pop culture and politics already lost in our collective short-term memory." I don't know about you, but I haven't forgotten about the failed search for Osama bin Laden or the mad politicizing of the Terry Schiavo case or the incremental reductions of personal freedom wrought by the Patriot Act. If there are Americans who have lost sight of this stuff, well...I doubt that making jokes about it will do much to get their attention now.
This play by Kirk Lynn and others, based on David Rees's Internet comic strip, is not really a play at all; it's a string of blackout sketches and one-liners stitched together like a channel surf through half a decade of Saturday Night Live, Letterman, and Daily Show reruns. Five actors—Ron Berry, Lana Lesley, Jason Liebrecht, Sarah E. Richardson, and Lynn himself—portray anonymous, supposedly typical Americans, parsing and hashing out the news at the archetypal office water cooler; occasionally one of the actors (usually Liebrecht) dons a silly costume to shift the P.O.V. to, say, a man who wants to get flown to Mars (a dig on Bush's 2004 announcement of a program to send manned missions to the red planet).
The only props are five old-fashioned overhead projectors, with which the cast members create a constantly changing backdrop of Rees's comics, news photos, and other images. The low-tech multimedia element is as self-conscious as most of the humor; there is, for example, a several-minute riff on the use of the word "fuck" in national discourse that plays as postmodernly ironic because most of the show's dialogue is littered with profanity: "Ok, I hate to act like a fucking dumbass, but are we at war?"; "Goddamn! I'm sick of these fake-ass terror alerts!"; "Hey, Pat [Robertson], is 9/11 still the fault of atheists and lesbians, you fucking INSANE RELIGIOUS PRICK?"
Some of the material is authentically funny, but the programmed irreverence of the show effectively prevents any of it from feeling resonant. As directed by Shawn Sides, it's delivered well, as far as it goes—but as I've already said, Get Your War On doesn't particularly go anywhere, except over terrain that's been traversed plenty of times already.
There's a real need for plays to be written about what has happened to America in the Bush years, and probably some of them could be satirical. But a parade of arch jokes about how lousy things have been accomplishes very little beyond exacerbating the national (or at least my own) bad mood. Theatre that finds a way to lift its audience out of their seats—as opposed to theatre that's content to let its audience sit on their rear ends laughing mindlessly and complacently about what a mess we've made of things: wouldn't that be refreshing and exciting right about now?