Review: Welcome to Afghanistan

Matt Panesh is the Monkey Poet.

4 stars

Indy Fringe

Theatre, Friday, March 10.

Matt Panesh,

known to Fringe Festival attendees as the Monkey Poet, returned to Indy last

weekend for more stand-up poetry and the local premiere of his one-man play.

Comic, brainy and disturbing, Welcome to Afghanistan revisits the

massacre of thousands of British soldiers in the first Anglo-Afghan War

(1839-42). "Auckland's Folly" is probably the bread and butter of history

classes in England, but for many Americans, the term serves only as a vague

reference to imperial hubris. Clearly, Panesh has something to say about the

past and current tendencies of powerful countries to invade "weaker" countries,

only to discover that the locals have a surprisingly fierce commitment to

hanging on to them.

Still, he doesn't

beat on the point, until the very funny end. He's too busy mixing images of

Kipling's India with targeted portrayals of daft military leaders, misguided

soldiers, and journalists who collect tragic stories with a bloodlust all their

own. With physicality and vocal play that increases across the hour, Panesh turns

a dark history into dark comedy.


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