While this theater season has seen multiple productions on the Middle East, the spotlight has been almost exclusively on Iraq and Israel. Now the "Graveyard of Empires" has its turn center stage with The Great Game: Afghanistan, a play of epic proportions, transplanted from London's Tricycle Theater to NYC by the Public Theater.

The Great Game, co-directed by Nicolas Kent and Indhu Rubasingham, is a chronological history of foreign involvement in Afghanistan since 1842, told in 12 playlets. That adds up to seven hours of on-stage action, which with intermissions becomes a 12-hour saga. (Tickets) The piece runs in marathon twice on the weekends, a feat we're inclined to call grueling, or a tad Ambromavician. Actress Jemma Redgrave, however, just calls it "exhilarating." During an interview last week, the fourth-generation Redgrave told us about why she thinks we shouldn't leave Afghanistan any time soon, the merits of napping backstage, and the only place one should ever bother eating panna cotta.

What is it like being in a 12-hour production? Where do you find your stamina? [Laughs] It's a big workout! The bliss is that you can eat what you like all day and it doesn't touch your thighs. [Laughs] It requires an energy and a stamina. You find actors lying around back stage just so they can find ten minutes to zone out and take a nap. It's an incredibly exhilarating thing to be part of. I talked to friends of mine who were in The Coast of Utopia in London, Tom Stoppard's trilogy covering Russian literary history from...I can't remember the date exactly. But they said the same thing that I feel at the end of this, that the audience and actors have been through this marathon event together, and you form a bond with the audience that's unlike anything you've felt in the theater before. You're sort of friends at the end of it! You feel waves of goodwill going backwards and forwards at the curtain call. It's really a wonderful thing, actually.

How has doing this production affected your own political views on Afghanistan? Well, it's educated me. Being part of this event, I knew nothing of our linked history, or certainly of the British history of the wars in the 19th century. I knew absolutely nothing about any of it. So I've been on an incredible journey. My eyes have been opened; I feel like I've been enriched by this process enormously. My views...my views weren't based in anything other than whatever I saw in the news, on the BBC or the newspapers. I suppose I thought we shouldn't be there. But I've been on an odyssey. My views have changed quite a lot.

So you feel we should be there, now? I'll put it like this: we have a history. History seems to have repeated itself over the last 160 years. When the armies come in and occupy Afghanistan, it seems to be an incredibly easy country to invade and an impossible country to get out of. We go in and create an appalling mess, and get out. I think it would be tragic if there was another repetition of that cycle.

Are you optimistic about the situation in Afghanistan? I hope, I hope that we can leave behind something worthwhile. I hope if and when we do get out, what we leave behind feels more stable and secure than what we've left behind before. I don't know. I've no idea. It seems to be that the consensus here and in Britain is that we should just get out as soon as possible and without much thought to what's left behind. But I hope that's not the case.

These are twelve short plays, so how many roles do you play in total? Five. I think that's right? I'm in two...three...four...five plays.

Switching roles that many times must take the concept of stamina to a whole other level. Is it a challenge to keep the characters from affecting each other? There's a company of 14 actors, and some play as many as six or seven. Because we had such a rigorous rehearsal process, it feels prepared. There's enough preparation time because the rehearsal process was so detailed. Each character is so defined and very separate. When you've had the time to properly investigate and properly mine the text, somehow you can segway between parts. It's great fun, actually. It's sort of what you hope when you start, that you'll be given the chance to be as versatile as we're being given the chance to be here. It's great.

Have you found a difference in the audience's reaction to the plays in the U.S., as opposed to in the U.K.? No, what I'd say is that the audience here has been phenomenal. We started East, and then went West, and now we're back East again. There's a different character to every city, but the reception has been phenomenal. We've had standing ovations at the trilogies everywhere we've been.

During the week, The Great Game will be shown in three parts over three days, instead of as a marathon. You mentioned a bond with the audience that comes with having finished it as a 12 hour production. So do you think seeing them separately takes anything away from the wholeness of the piece? When we started in the rehearsal room in London two years ago, I thought it was way too long. I thought it would go down way better in parts. But actually, the reverse is true. I never thought I would say that the trilogy, the marathon, is the best way to see the plays. I think that that is true. From the audience reaction, that is definitely the most satisfying way to see the plays. It's a huge arc! [Laughs] There's no doubt about it. But I think you reap rewards from seeing it straight through.

Does your family come over to New York when you're working here? I've never worked here before! So I'm very lucky that I've got family here. My aunt's here, and I have cousins here. My children came to San Francisco when I was working there, and they'll come here at the end of the run. They feel like they were there at the beginning of this and want to be here for the end.

Have your sons shown any interest in joining the family business and becoming actors themselves? It's too early to tell, I think! But they have loved being with me on this tour and being part of the company. It feels like an extension of the family really, and they've loved that.

Have you found a favorite place to eat in New York? Yes, Morandi!

Really, hands down? I love Morandi. It's around the corner from where I'm staying and it's just delicious. I mean, there are so many, but that's the one I head for when I want something delicious and comforting.

What do you order? [Laughs] I don't know where to start! The meatballs are really good, they're pasta's fantastic, the soups are really good. But the panna cotta I had when I was here last year was out of this world. I'm a bit of a pudding freak, so, yeah. I would say anything on the menu. But pasta! Yum, yes, good.