New York | 1h 30m | Already closed

Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait

From 16 critic and 5 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Great singing, Slow, Funny, Excruciating

About the show

Rattlestick Theatre presents a play about two soldiers who wait for battle, but there are no enemies left to fight and no one, especially those in charge, seems to know who has won. More…

American soldiers Smith and Leadem kill time at a worn out desert outpost swallowed by sand on the other side of the world. Dutifully fulfilling their mission, they wait for a sign from the enemy, for further orders, for anything. As their rations shrink and the desert, sky, and sand seem to grow and expand around them, they fight for clarity and sanity, to stay on task, and to serve as they’ve sworn to do. As the days fall away it becomes less and less possible to know what is future, past, living, dead, or dream.

1h 30m | Already closed | The Gym at Judson (West Village)

Theatre Reviews by John Clum

"Talbott has given his play a mesmerizing production...'Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait' deserves to be seen. As writer and director, Daniel Talbott is a true poet of the theater and Numrich and Miskell give extraordinary performances. There aren't a lot of seats in the Judson Gym and the play is not performed every night, so plan ahead." Full Review

NY Theatre Guide

"There is something remarkably effective about 'Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait.' It doesn’t beat you over the brow with anti-war messages yet it is a telling parable about the unnecessary dangers and listlessness of war. Instead, it speaks to our fear of what it means to die and furthermore, why we all want so much to be alive. Beautifully written and haunting, it is worth making the trip." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"The machismo of the modern-day warrior is exposed, and the folly of war revealed, in this explosive and intense new drama...This provocative, thoughtful play will leave audiences wondering why we send our young to distant lands to quell conflict...Viewers will likely leave thinking about the human cost of war as well as the social price of these expenditures." Full Review

Time Out New York

"You can feel the heat and the panic in Daniel Talbott's hallucinatory production, which has the rhythm and texture of a nightmare. Talbott breaks his story into vignettes to evoke time passing and water supply dwindling, punctuated by John Zalewski's electric-misfire sound design. Like the grains of sand on the floor of the stage that audience members must walk through to get to their seats, this one will stick with you for a while." Full Review

New York Post

"While the atmosphere is there, the play itself doesn’t rise to that level — Daniel Talbott was better at directing his own show than at writing it...The play is too heavy-handed in its use of fantasy scenes and some details don’t track...But the overall vibe is convincingly post-apocalyptic. And the actors are all very good." Full Review


"Indeed, there's plenty of ambiguity regarding what here is real and what is fantasy, what can be believed and what shouldn't be. It's possible for different viewers to come away with varying ideas of what they've seen, and that's not a bad thing. Neither aggressively emotional nor prescriptively moral, 'Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait' presents a measured, thought-provoking, and gripping vision of where today's constant state of war might lead us." Full Review

The New York Times

"What Mr. Talbott expects us to derive from his play remains opaque. He is hardly the first to depict the difficult life of the soldier and its punishing psychic toll. Despite the fine acting, 'Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait' succeeds mostly in making us share the mind-addling frustration of its characters, and maybe wondering how Zimbabwe fits into this particular vision of the hazards of war." Full Review

New York Daily News

"At best, the acting is uniformly strong and the script packs punches with its unsettling imagery...In the end, the play is both obvious and unclear. It hits you over the head and leaves you scratching it." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Unfortunately, Talbott has nothing pertinent to say...The title is the biggest tell: Each of the four countries has, in its own way, been affected by violent warfare, but the devil is always, always in the details. Lumping them together is an easy way of seeming to make an important statement without really doing so. In 'Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait', Talbott wants us to feel very, very guilty. It would be better if he tried to make us think." Full Review


Talbott seems far less interested in the specific geopolitics of the countries he invokes as he is in depicting the horrors to which they might lead. While certainly well-intentioned, it results in a theatrical experience that is both dismal and unenlightening...While only 90 minutes long, 'Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait' feels as tedious as a forced march through the Sahara." Full Review


"Not specifying the locale of the action appears to be an attempt to achieve a metaphorical dimension. It’s really just a pretentious mishmash of battlefield clichés...Irritating though watchable, 'Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait,' by the time of its conclusion feels like an academic theatrical exercise of little consequence." Full Review

New Jersey Newsroom

"The single element that makes the play uncomfortable for audiences to witness is the circumstances of the setting. Visually striking though it is, the set’s concrete bunker is half-buried in mounds of sand...If you go, better bring along a dust mask to wear or be prepared to cough up sand particles for some time afterwards. Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing you’ll take away from this obviously well-meant but hazy drama.“ Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"The tension does not escalate and the play does not build to something truly effecting...Rather than gaining momentum and drama, the story starts so heightened it never quite leaves that plateau...Even with this strong performance it was not enough to fully engage me in the play itself. " Full Review

Stage and Cinema

"This well-directed production grinds to a halt, its ending finally so sentimental that it borders on vulgar....The complete absence of suspense makes watching 'Afghanistan' feel like being on a train that doesn’t go anywhere—sure there’s a bar car and a restaurant car and sleeping berths, but your reason for getting on was that you wanted this vehicle to take you someplace, and it never does." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Mr. Talbott’s production makes up in atmospherics what it lacks in narrative coherence. But atmospherics, and even the quality performances on view, aren’t enough to constitute a drama, no matter how well intentioned. Talbott’s gloomy work about boredom succeeds only in making you understand the meaning of that word." Full Review

Front Row Center

"While I will salute the dramatic impact of forcing the audience to literally 'breathe in the desert war,' I will admit that, had I been near an exit, I would have exited...It is fair to say that 'Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait' imposes the tedium, fear, aggression, bullying, murderous rage, and terror of war on the audience...I wish I could say 'Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait' is 'heavy sledding but worth the slog.' It’s not." Full Review

Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Original, Thought-provoking

See it if You want your mind opened.

Don't see it if You're hypersensitive and easily upset.

Relevant, Challenging, Intense, Slow, Great acting

See it if you want an exploration of the effects of war on soldiers in a world where nothing really makes any sense anymore.

Don't see it if you like crystal-clear storytelling.

Slow, Excruciating, Disappointing, Unclear, Boring

See it if you want to have a truly boring evening in the theatre. The playwright and director are the same person—trouble ahead!!

Don't see it if you're smart.

Profound, Great singing, Great acting, Funny, Absorbing

See it if You would like to see the progression of a character who is broken, yet finds herself in the end.

Don't see it if You don't like movie to stage adaptations.

Overrated, Great acting, Great singing

See it if You liked the movie.

Don't see it if You did not like the movie.

Cast & Creatives

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