The Armadillo Necktie Review - War is Hell, and Occupation is Worse

Playwright Gus Krieger has a lot to say about “a generation in the middle,” which he sees as his personal niche. Of the multiple conflicts before and after that point, he zeroes in on his target, warfare in Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom lasted only 42 days; however, Iraq as a bone of contention has remained just that. Krieger remarks, “Last I checked we are still there.”

Bert Emmett and Jennifer Laks - Photo by Doug Engalla

THE ARMADILLO NECKTIE is about Col. Ulysses S. Armadillo, who chose to stay in his little bunker after the rest of his military compatriots moved on. As the play unfolds, we discover that his wife died in Iraq when he was first deployed there. The circumstances are a bit cloudy. In any case, Armadillo (Bert Emmett) decides that he will not leave until he has vengeance upon his wife’s murderers. Apparently, Armadillo has been there for quite some time with his first-in-command, Buckley Dunham (Matt Calloway). As the play begins, three new players unexpectedly enter the scene, New York Times reporter Madeline Sainz (Jennifer Laks), photographer Bruce Walker (Morgan Lauff), and a local lady named Aminah Abdul-Haleem Ali (Shanti Ashanti). Apparently, the New York Times sent two staff members to interview and photograph Colonel Armadillo, who has achieved some degree of notoriety over his refusal to leave Iraq. Aminah has come to ask the good Colonel to help rescue her brother.

Matt Calloway, Shanti Ashanti, Bert Emmett, Morgan Lauff, and Jennifer Laks - Photo by Doug Engalla

As it turns out, Armadillo is a very strange man who often speaks in near-code and who doesn’t appear to be all there. He raptly describes ghostly spiders and other strange denizens of his environment. His energetic aide-de-camp dutifully remains at his side (but may have a penchant for torture, leading to some dark laughs). When these five individuals get together, fur will almost certainly fly. THE ARMADILLO NECKTIE is a darkly humorous study of warfare and its effects on human behavior. Skilled director Drina Durazo carefully plucks the very funny lines written by “the love of her life,” Gus Krieger. She brings chuckles and guffaws into the story of the slightly tilted Colonel Armadillo. The very talented cast does a skillful job of studying the “larger-than-life” Colonel and his fixation on remaining in Iraq, perhaps forever. Despite an underpinning of tragedy, the Colonel gleefully continues his quest. What that quest is becomes more and more confusing as time goes on.

Bert Emmett, Shanti Ashanti, and Matt Calloway - Photo by Doug Engalla

J. Kent Inasy’s scenic and light design lend just the right ambience to life in a bunker. Angela M. Eads’ costume design and props designed by Todd Andrew Ball and Hisato Masuyama lend authenticity to the setting. The audience gets to experience living in the confines of this small space, now crowded with five people. Not to be outdone, William Hickman’s fight choreography is excellent. Playwright Krieger pokes fun at many hallowed topics, including war, torture, and terrorism; and nothing seems to escape his notice. This play may not be for the faint of heart.

Morgan Lauff, Matt Calloway, Jennifer Laks, Shanti Ashanti, and Bert Emmett - Photo by Doug Engalla

THE ARMADILLO NECKTIE runs through July 31, 2016, with performances at 8 PM Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 PM Sundays. Talk-back’s are scheduled for June 26 and July 17. The Lonny Chapman theatre is located at 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are $20 (seniors/students) and $25 (general admission). For information and reservations call 818-763-5990 or go online at www.thegrouprep.com.

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