Lana Lesley in Get Your War On
(© Jacques-Jean Tiziou)
Lana Lesley in Get Your War On
(© Jacques-Jean Tiziou)
Sharp, ironic, and often hilarious, the Austin-based Rude Mechs' presentation of Get Your War On is adapted from David Rees' popular Internet cartoon of the same name, which is now also published in Rolling Stone. Rees began writing the fiercly political strip in October 2001 and has chronicled everything from the beginning of Operation: Enduring Freedom, to the Anthrax scare, Bush's plans to send manned spacecraft to Mars, the Mark Foley scandal, and the hanging of Saddam Hussein. All of the above find their way into the Mechs' script, penned by Kirk Lynn with members of the company and directed with a potent mixture of passion and whimsy by Shawn Sides.

The fast-paced action is brought to vivid life by actors Ron Berry, Lana Lesley, Jason Liebrecht, Kirk Lynn, and Sarah E. Richardson. While each gets a chance to shine, I was particularly enamored of Berry, whose facial expressions and droll delivery was consistently amusing. Lesley also possesses an arch demeanor that is captivating.

Dressed in business attire (by costumer Laura Cannon), the company members utilize five overhead projectors to lay out a rapid-fire succession of images and text (scenic design by Leilah Stewart, technical design by Madge Darlington). The projectors each have their own square box on the rectangular white screen at the back of the stage, often giving the illusion of a five panel comic strip. Microphones supplement the actors' voices, allowing them to be heard over the techno beats and other sounds that occasionally play underneath (sound design by Robert S. Fisher).

The company has taken many of Rees' cartoons and staged them word for word. At times, they'll cut out a panel (including some of the punchlines!) or add to the cartoon with additional commentary. They also get to play more with visual gags than Rees, who uses a purposefully limited range of images of fairly generic office workers from cartoon to cartoon. (The Mechs will occasionally showcase these on the overhead projectors while one of the actors speaks.) At certain points, an actor will even don a more elaborate costume piece, such as a space helmet when talking about going to Mars or a wacky outfit symbolizing North Korea.

My favorite bit of business has one member of the company pull out a scroll of parchment and a feathered pen while talking about how easy it is to rewrite the Constitution. Another sequence has a company member maintaining a "fuck count" during a segment of the show, keeping track of the number of times the actors (and Rees' strip) use the word, and linking that to the controversy that exploded when John Kerry stated that he didn't expect President Bush to "fuck it up as badly as he did."

While the laughs come fast and furious, the pace also slows down for more serious reflections. For example, reacting to the firing of linguists specializing in Arabic for being homosexual, a cast member reads out an open letter to the Pentagon from one of Rees' cartoons that asks how you would say "I can't believe we're paying you one billion dollars a day to piss on the grave of Mark Bingham -- I feel safer already, you sick motherfuckers" in Arabic. The entire company then turns to face upstage and silently stares at projected text which identifies Bingham -- who happened to be gay -- as one of the heroes on the September 11 United 93 flight. The moment is quietly effective.

The show does have a few drawbacks. A lip-synched sequence to David Bowie's "Life on Mars" needs to be cut down drastically, while an "80s flashback" with two of the actors dancing the Robot is also a bit overdone. But overall, Get Your War On is a brilliant political satire that, while unlikely to sway any conservative right-wingers, is sure to appeal to an American populace that seems to be fed up with the current administration and likely to enjoy seeing it lampooned.