PATRIOTS Review — In Glasnost’s Wake

“…And why would I do that, Aleksandr Stalyevich? “Hold my enemies close?” When I can simply destroy them? …”

Will Keen as Vladimir Putin

So says Vladimir Putin (played by Will Keen), whose nervous gerbil-like twitches are now morphed.   If his neck shifts now, we think more of a black belt judo move. We see that he is taller, with more of an erect bearing. He sees this too, as he opens a door atop the centerstage stairway that reveals a mirror. 

Putin seems to pause slightly at the sight of his reflection, the only self-indulgence he seems to allow himself ever.

...This is the Putin of Act II.

He is no longer the meek lower level bureaucrat whom larger-than-life kleptocrat Boris Berezovsky (played by Michael Stuhlbarg) first approached with a bribe.  He wanted Putin to help him bypass annoying rules and regulations slowing his advance to billionaire status in the Wild West of glasnost’s wake.  

If we didn’t already know what happens in the end, the Putin we initially met in Act I might seem like a small footnote who could find his way to the cutting room floor in the larger-than-life saga of ever over-the-top Berezovsky.  Berezovsky— a golden boy math prodigy — construes himself to be the personification of infinity.  He would have us believe, as he seems to himself, that he is the keeper of the Russian soul striving for limitless freedom. Is he a patriot of the play’s title? Or— as many around him suggest in various ways— is he just on a narcissistic feeding frenzy to aggrandize his ego, his finances, and especially his love of power, and what and whom that power can buy?  

First and foremost Berezovsky seems to enjoy being a kingmaker.  Brilliant though he is, it seems to never occur to Berezovsky that from the king’s perspective, a kingmaker is a cumbersome disposable.

Alex Hurt as Alexander Litvinenko

PATRIOT Cast and Stagecraft Keeps us Rapt

Playwright Peter Morgan’s tight script gives the cast and creative team an abundance of riches to work with.  They all around ace it, in this reviewer’s opinion.   Will Keen’s cold-as-ice Putin emerges in a smooth slow arc that seems to assert with every syllable of his more authoritative tongue that he was always lurking somewhere within.

Michael Stuhlbarg’s sometimes manic Berezovsky is magnetic.  We feel his playfulness.  We somehow forget and even forgive that for him it’s all about power.  Intellectually we know Berezovsky is THE poster boy of what Bernie, in the US context, distastefully refers to as “the billionaire class”.  Emotionally, however, expect to feel so connected to Stuhlbarg’s Berezovsky that you somewhat rankle to hear he was robbed of the (mythical) Nobel Prize that was rightfully his due.  

How perfect that we get to see a collage of jumbo screen projections of actors’ facial expressions at key moments— from newscasters, to Yeltsin, to Putin—and sometimes news clips to keep the tale moving quickly.  It does move quickly. We are rapt from beginning to end.



Photos: Matthew Murphy


Thru June 23, 2024



Barrymore Theatre
243 West 47TH Street
New York, NY 10036



For more information and tickets visit the Patriots Broadway website.

Written by Peter Morgan
Directed by Rupert Goold
Set Designer: Miriam Buether 
Co-Costume Designers: Deborah Andrews and Miriam Buether
Lighting Designer: Jack Knowles
Sound Designer/Composer: Adam Cork
Projection Designer: Ash J Woodward
Movement Director: Polly Bennett
Production Stage Manager: Scott Rollison 
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA
US General Management: TT Partners
Producers: Sonia Friedman ProductionsNetflix, Nederlander PresentationsRichard Winkler,Stephanie P. McClelland, Ted Snowdon, Jamie deRoy/Ken Greiner, and Richard Batchelder.


Michael StuhlbargWill Keen ;Luke Thallon ;Stella Baker; Ronald GuttmanAlex HurtRosie Benton;  Jeff BiehlPeter Bradbury  Camila Canó-Flaviá;  Marianna GailusAdam Poss ; Nick Rehberger.

Understudies are Benjamin Bonenfant Danielle Chaves Joe Forbrich, Tony Ward .

Amy Munice

About the Author: Amy Munice

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.


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