Theater Review: 'Modern Terrorism ...' -- 2 stars
Modern Terrorism, or They Who Want to Kill Us and How We Learn to Love Them
Immediately following the arrest of a 21-year-old Bangladeshi male accused of plotting to set off explosives at the Federal Reserve Bank on Wednesday in New York City, a new Off-Broadway play has opened about a 20-year-old Pakistani male who plans to bomb the Empire State Building and NASDAQ stock exchange in nearly identical acts of terrorism. Talk about being timely - and incredibly eerie.
Jon Kern's "Modern Terrorism ...," with its long-winded title derived from "Dr. Strangelove ...," explores the young men and women willing to kill themselves and countless others while acting as suicide bombers. It is framed as a dark satire full of irreverence and chaos.
Mixing the threat of violence with slapstick comedy is sure to offend a good chunk of theatergoers, but more problematic is the fact that the play itself just isn't very good.
Kern throws in some funny images - like the protagonist strapping a bomb to his underwear - and many memorable lines, a few highlights being "I thought I had ADD until I found jihad" and "you are holding something valuable in your underpants."
But for the most part, "Modern Terrorism" is an inert and irritating two hours, consisting mainly of dull conversations between confused slackers that go nowhere, with some pop culture references ("Star Wars," Netflix) thrown in for good measure.
It's worth noting that "Modern Terrorism" is the latest play to win the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award, which not only awards a cash prize to an unknown playwright for an unproduced play, but offers $100,000 to the non-profit theater that ultimately produces it.
Were it not for the $100,000 temptation, do you really think Second Stage, one of the most prestigious Off-Broadway theater companies, would have produced "Modern Terrorism"?
If you go: "Modern Terrorism, or They Who Want to Kill Us and How We Learn to Love Them" plays through Nov. 4 at Second Stage. 305 W. 43rd St., 212-246-4422, 2ST.org.