New York Daily News

‘Gifts’ wraps up Afghan conflict

- Joe Dziemianow­icz

Playwright J.T. Rogers has made a career out of sociopolit­ical dramas. He’s previously tackled Rwandan genocide in “The Overwhelmi­ng” and racial divides in “White People.” Now, in “Blood and Gifts,” his earnest and well-acted play at Lincoln Center, he spotlights America’s covert involvemen­t in the Soviet-afghan War and the enduring aftershock­s.

The action covers 10 years beginning in 1981 and jumps between Pakistan, Afghanista­n and Washington, D.C., and back again.

It’s a dense story with a cinematic sweep, but director Bartlett Sher’s clean and clear staging keeps everything in focus as it plays out on a tiled rectangle recalling a game board. That’s a fitting image for the serious sport of spy versus spy.

The action follows fictional CIA operative Jim Warnock (Jeremy Davidson), who goes to Pakistan to secretly supply guns and money to Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet invasion of their country.

Warnock is a good man but willing to lie to anyone in the name of his mission. He believes the rebels will remain loyal to the U.S. in return. You know how that turns out; hindsight being 20-20, it actually saps the spy thriller of tension.

Davidson, who plays another spy on TV’S “Pan Am,” anchors the cast with a sturdy portrayal. Jefferson Mays, Gabriel Ruiz and Michael Aronov lend excellent support as agents working for, respective­ly, Britain, Pakistan and the Soviet Union.

Through Jan. 1 at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre, 150 W. 65th St. Tickets: $85; (212) 239-6200.

 ??  ?? Agents of change: From l., Jeremy Davidson, Jefferson Mays & Michael Aronov in J.T. Rogers’ “Blood and Gifts”
Agents of change: From l., Jeremy Davidson, Jefferson Mays & Michael Aronov in J.T. Rogers’ “Blood and Gifts”

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