The Broadway staging of Peter Morgan’s play is a ‘Nyet’ | Trending Viral hub

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In Peter MorganIn the tantalizing but disappointing new play “Patriots,” Boris Berezovsky presents himself as a larger-than-life oligarch in a post-Soviet Russia who transforms Vladimir Putin from a mediocre “nobody” to an autocrat who will transform his country in unforeseen ways on a national or global level.

There is the expectation that in Morgan’s latest fusion of historical fact and fiction, the writer of “The Crown” on television, “The Audience” on stage and “The Queen” on film will once again provide an intimate and revealing behind another well-known one. saved curtain, this time made of iron.

But in this foreign territory, Morgan’s position is less secure, less able to speak with the native authenticity that he brought to his other, much richer works. These charmless characters are broadly drawn, psychologically shallow, and simplistically portrayed.

The premise for this Transfer from West End to Broadway It’s intriguing at first, especially for audiences unfamiliar with the major forces at play in 1990s Russian politics: the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the privatization of state property, and the rise of oligarchs who rule like gangster capitalists. .

At the center of “Patriots” is a power play between two men with very different ideas about the future of Russia, each of whom sees himself as the true “patriot” needed to save his country. A man is full of confidence and extravagance; the other is strategic and genius; both righteous, both ruthless. But under the subtle direction of Rupert Gold, there are no other titles in this theatrical thermostat.

Morgan’s Berezovsky (Michael Stuhlbarg) sees an increasingly lawless, corrupt and out-of-control country as an opportunity for a more progressive Russia to emerge under his godfather leadership. This billionaire understands very well that with an endless supply of money and vast control of the media, his influence is infinite.

In fact, Morgan superimposes discussions of the nature of infinity, both mathematical and philosophical, onto this simplified story to give it a veneer of existential depth, as well as a glimpse into this protagonist’s past. With flashbacks to Berezovsky’s childhood when he was a math prodigy, the cheeky boy is shown to have had a calculating mind from the start, in more ways than one.

By contrast, Morgan’s Putin (will be enthusiastic, convincing in its rigid minimalism and tight voice) is first seen as a deferential deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, practically disappearing into his drab, ill-fitting suit, but still adamant in rejecting the bribes offered by Berezovsky. But that moral authority changes after Putin is overthrown and seeks Berezovsky’s help to return him to some position of power, in exchange for which he would be grateful and loyal.

With Berezovsky’s control over the mainstream media propping up a dysfunctional president, Boris Yeltsin (Paul Kynman, a striking lookalike), is able to convince Yeltsin’s influential daughter Tatiana (Camila Cano-Flavia) to appoint to Prime Minister Putin, imagining him as a lackey who can make his bid to help shape Russia’s future.

But when Yeltsin unexpectedly resigns and the once unremarkable government official suddenly becomes president, things quickly change and Berezovsky discovers that he no longer has the strings. Putin sees his – and Russia’s – destiny from a very different perspective than his facilitator.

After humiliating Putin on television, the oligarch soon finds himself not only in the cold, but also out of the country, finding political asylum in England with no way back.

In a sprawling play that’s strangely set and staged in what looks like an oligarchs’ nightclub, historical milestones and plot points flash by, perhaps better suited for a television miniseries in which they can be presented with less disjointed rush.

There’s an assassination attempt, the Kursk submarine disaster, a complicated trial in London, a poisoning on the hit list, hints of anti-Semitism, a quick cameo by Pussy Riot protesters, Putin’s consolidation of power and the questionable death of an oligarch. There is also some finger-pointing about the West’s missed opportunity in not taking this former KGB agent seriously.

As Berezovsky, Stuhlbarg makes bold, often too bold, physical choices in portraying the playful, hyperactive character, often turning him into a prancing, embarrassing clown enthralled by his own ego, power, and invincibility.

Compared, The time bomb of a Keen performance since the steely Putin is most captivating in his stillness. At first he conveys helplessness, but after becoming president, and with a slight alteration of suit and spine, he indicates a chilling authority. It’s a clever calibration, but Morgan’s fine psychology of the enigmatic Putin falls short.

Performances on a more human scale include an impressive Luke Thallon as Roman Abramovich, a Berezovsky ally navigating a new alliance with Putin when his fellow oligarch self-destructs. There’s also Alex Hurt’s dignified Alexander Litvinenko, Berezovsky’s security chief, an honest cop caught up in political machinations beyond his control.

However, the role of women in this Russian alpha universe is marginal. If they are there, it is like a quick snapshot depicting an annoying wife, a loving wife, a hopeful mother, or one of Berezovsky’s many anonymous lovers.

Looming over the play’s retrospective look at this recent Russian past is the disturbing knowledge of the all-too-real present. The public may simply not buy Morgan’s oligarch as a tragic hero and his Putin as a man who brought order out of chaos, who played better than the prodigy and who, without irony, saw himself as a patriot .

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