Charles Isherwood’s review of Blood and Gifts, J. T. Rogers’s new play about Afghanistan in the 1980s, is positive all around, but singles out one member of the cast for particular praise:
the rather unimpressive first “gift” to the Afghan cause Warnock has come to offer: 100,000 rifles...inspires outrage in Afridi and snorts of scorn in Simon Craig (the ever-amazing Jefferson Mays), Warnock’s British counterpart, working for the British intelligence service MI6. . . .Here’s an interview with Jeff Mays on this play from TheaterMania.
I suspect Mr. Mays has been boning up on Greene and le Carré to prepare for his performance, so richly saturated is it in the sardonic humor and bruised humanity of the best depictions of cynical British operatives in those novelists’ work. Craig is always scrambling in late for meetings with the sweat of a hangover still upon him. He is also often hilarious in his bitter commentary on both the British government’s impecunious support for the cause and the moral morass that the Afghan conflict has become.
When he learns that major weaponry is to be channeled to Hekmatyar, Craig erupts in a typical burst of seething sarcasm, asking Afridi if the Afghans themselves have been consulted: “You know, ‘Hello Afghans! Would you mind terribly if we try and install a maniac to rule you and then sink your country into civil war?’”