The political thriller explores the origins of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s power
Truth, lies, and power – the thrilling play Describe the Night by Rajiv Joseph takes the stage at the Wilma Theater from Jan. 28-Feb. 16, 2020. The award-winning epic, directed by Artistic Director Blanka Zizka, explores the blurred lines between lies, history, and conspiracy theories as it traces the origins of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s power.
Set in Russia over the course of 90 years, Describe the Night follows eight characters unexpectedly connected by history, myth, blood…and a diary. Real-life historical figures mix with the fictional and fantastical in an electrifying mystery.
“I want and hope audiences lose themselves in the tales of this play,” Joseph said. “It’s not a history lesson, nor is it a political dissertation of any kind. It’s a fairy tale, a collection of myths. I do hope it’s thought-provoking, and that people can talk about it, discuss it, and find aspects of the story that speak to them long after the curtain has gone down.”
Describe the Night won the 2018 Obie Award Winner for Best New American Play. The playwright is still revising the script and is making changes specifically for the Wilma production, in collaboration with Zizka.
“I think the Wilma version of the play is the best one to date,” Joseph said. “I’m excited that I have this opportunity—with a theatre like the Wilma and a director like Blanka—to finally bring Describe the Night into what it is supposed to become.”
The historical Russian writer and journalist Isaac Babel (author of Red Cavalry, Story of My Dovecote and The Odessa Tales) is a central character in the play. Babel’s writing profoundly influenced Zizka, who read his works as a teenager before defecting from her native Czechoslovakia to escape Soviet persecution.
“Rajiv’s exploration of facts, lies, truth and power in arts and politics is genuinely fascinating,” Zizka said. “Each scene in Describe the Night contains a surprise.”
Joseph was inspired to write Describe the Night after learning about the unexpected friendship and love triangle between Babel; Nikolai Yezhov, the head of Stalin’s Secret Police; and Yezhov’s wife, Yevgenia Feigenburg.
“A friendship between an artist and politician tends to be treacherous, but in Rajiv’s play the winner and losers are not at all predestined,” Zizka said. “Rajiv is an extraordinarily skillful and imaginative storyteller.”
The exciting set by scenic designer Matt Saunders will have audience members watching the show from above on three sides. The Wilma’s newly reconfigured theater allows designers to customize the space for each performance.
Describe the Night features Wilma HotHouse company members Ross Beschler, Keith Conallen, Sarah Gliko, Anthony Martinez-Briggs, Campbell O’Hare, Steven Rishard, and Brett Ashley Robinson. The creative team includes lighting designer Thom Weaver, sound designer and composer Christopher Colucci, costume designer Vasilija Zivanic, and projection designer Christopher Ash.
Tickets: Full price tickets from $35-$52, with discounts available for Seniors, Young Friends, Students, and Theater Industry Professionals. Tickets are available at the Wilma’s Box Office by visiting wilmatheater.org, calling 215-546-7824, or coming to the theater.