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Describe the Night

From 203 member  reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Ambitious, Intelligent, Great writing

About the show

Set in Russia over the course of 90 years, the Atlantic's new epic drama from Rajiv Joseph ('Guards at the Taj') traces the stories of seven men and women connected by history, myth, and conspiracy theories. More…

In 1920, the Russian writer Isaac Babel wanders the countryside with the Red Cavalry. Seventy years later, a mysterious KGB agent spies on a woman in Dresden and falls in love. In 2010, an aircraft carrying most of the Polish government crashes in the Russian city of Smolensk. 

Member Reviews (203)


Great acting, Absorbing, Ambitious, Intelligent, Great writing
Avg Score

Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You like well acted and staged plays. It’s long but the complex plot keeps things moving well.

Don't see it if Russian history as a backdrop would bore you or you don’t like political dramas/thrillers.

Epic, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Sinister, Fragmented

See it if Characters and events intertwine from four different periods in Russian history. Only bits of truth remain, and even those are questioned.

Don't see it if You don’t enjoy piecing together fragments of a non-linear story. Intellectually challenging with a mean villain, but not emotionally moving

Ambitious, Intelligent, Slow, Thought-provoking, Well acted

See it if Epic, ambitious & talent stretching effort by Joseph to chart the reach of Stalinistic policies into modern society esp 'fake news'

Don't see it if Despite impeccible acting, drama becomes a bit turgid & slow (Sardelli's direction lacks punch) Time trevelling technique grows tedious

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Epic, Ambitious

See it if You’d love a sprawling, epic, everything-is-connected work of historical fiction that makes you want to read more about the play’s events.

Don't see it if You dislike heady plays that bounce around between different time periods and make you feel unsure of if you’re following the plot.

Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Clever, Intriguing

See it if you like historical stories with some spices thrown in; truth or dare situations and great acting by all, especially Tina Benko.

Don't see it if you don't like long plays or political history with mystery; you don't like bits of embellishment thrown into your non fiction; poor ending.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoy historical dramas even if they are mixed with a pinch of fiction. A wonderful show-stealing performance by Tina Benko.

Don't see it if you can't sit still for three hours. Or if you do not like historical plays not told in chronological order.

Also A very ambitious work by Rajiv Joseph. Still needs some work, however.... Read more Read less

Excruciating, Indulgent, Slow, Disappointing, Confusing

See it if KBG spies, Polish government crashes, and a mysterious diary story-line interest you.

Don't see it if you are already overwhelmed by the Trump presidency’s connection to present day Russia.

Also WTF! I spent two hours and 45 minutes seated in a theater watching thi... Read more Read less

Intelligent, Absorbing, Historical, epic

See it if you are a fan of Russian historical events from the past 70 years told in stories that go back and forth in time and are all tied together.

Don't see it if you are not interested in Russian historical events or plays that go back and forth in time that can be a bit confusing & require attention.

Compelling, Masterful, Great writing, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if You want to see a fascinating historical drama that follows a compelling story over 90 years.

Don't see it if You are looking for something light and don't want to think

Also I enjoyed this play even more than I thought I would. The writing was ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great writing, Resonant, Clever

See it if You like historical dramas that move back and forth in time creating an intricate puzzle. This was a complex and beautifully written play.

Don't see it if You don’t like fact and fiction blended, you don’t like themes, and leitmotifs carried forward through different acts. If 3 hrs is too long.

Thought-provoking, Dizzying, Confusing, Ambitious

See it if Nuggets of interesting characters well presented, grounded in elements of history, for you might be enough to justify extended sitting.

Don't see it if Jumping back and forth repeatedly in time, and attempting to follow a not terribly coherent story does not sound like an appealing option.

Great acting, Absorbing, Relevant

See it if Excellent actors take us to & from points in Russian history that can serve as a warning for us today. An important play.

Don't see it if You have never read Russian history nor have an interest in it.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Clever, Dizzying, Great staging

See it if You want to see a dazzling political/historical work of dramatic fiction that takes smart artistic license with historical facts

Don't see it if You don't like plays that require you to pay attention and do a little work piecing together plot points.

Great acting, Great staging, Confusing, Slow, Ambitious

See it if you like historical shows based over time. See it if you like puzzling shows. It takes a patience to understand what is happening.

Don't see it if you need your plots in chronological order or if you only like fast paced shows. Very dense material.

Night not tight

See it if Stoppard fans rejoice. Imitation is sincerest form of flattery. Ambitious, perhaps excessively. Plenty to keep tabs on. Good wintertime play

Don't see it if A lot to chew on, but ingredients don't always blend. RJ assumes we were history/lit double majors. Direction cannot contain play's sprawl.

Also Pretty cool to sit in front row and have plastic confetti wash over yo... Read more Read less

Important subject matter but not up to rajiv joseph's past work, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You enjoy political subject matter and are ready for a heavy night

Don't see it if You are looking for something light or looking for interesting staging - or if you are part of the Trump administration

Also Like Rajiv Joseph's other work this is heavy and historical. He has im... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious

See it if An interesting take on a period of Russian history that links the three acts.

Don't see it if You like to be spoon fed and don't like to think much

Ambitious, Attempts epic scope, Confusing at times, Rich in ideas if not emotional life

See it if you appreciate plays that grapple with big ideas and large canvases, even when they sometimes don't work; you're a fan of Rajiv Joseph

Don't see it if you prefer the emotional to the epic, or the narrative to the poetic; you don't like multigenerational tales or keeping track of characters

Also Joseph's reach here is impressive, though it exceeds his grasp. Clearl... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Intelligent, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you like intelligent drama that challenges you.

Don't see it if you're not up for a play that makes you work to follow it.

Relevant, Funny, Great acting, Absorbing, Clever

See it if you enjoy wonderful theatre, great staging, and acting.

Don't see it if you want a musical or a simple, linear comedy that's short.

Ambitious, Disappointing, Great acting, Confusing, Long

See it if you like long, talky plays about Russia. You don't mind 2 intermissions. You like Danny Burstein, Tina Benko (the best thing about show)

Don't see it if you don't like long, serious plays about Russia. The ideas are interesting, but the writing falls short & the show is too long by an hour.

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see an interesting portrayal of a true story with good acting and staging.

Don't see it if you want a light and funny comedy.

Ambitious, Great acting, Good writing, Indulgent, Thought-provoking

See it if you have loved Mr. Joseph's other works and you support the process of new plays. Also, it's always great to see Danny Burstein in ANY show!

Don't see it if long dramas turn you off or anything "period-based" isn't your cup-of-tea.

Confusing, Great acting, Slow

See it if you enjoy historically based stories

Don't see it if you have trouble keeping track of stories that jump back and forth in and out of time periods

Banal, Confusing, Excruciating

See it if If you find modern Russian history absorbing. Some terrible directing and acting. Confusing and polemic. I walked out.

Don't see it if You want to be informed, entertained, or otherwise enjoy a night at the theatre.

December 5th, 2017
“A frankly tiresome play...Joseph's comedy wilts rather than blossoms in proximity to his tragedy, and his tragedy droops into bathos. The production, directed by Giovanna Sardelli, is no help...The root problem is that the characters are mere conveniences, bent like pipe cleaners into the shapes...
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December 6th, 2017
“Ambitiously complex…In a nearly three-hour play, it's impressive that Joseph keeps everything spinning almost to the very end. What's missing, though, is a sense that there's a center to the whirlwind. What idea, other than ‘fiction exists,’ is all this historical flotsam whizzing around?...Stil...
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December 5th, 2017
“Dense and fascinating...A play about stories, one that begins in historical fact and spins outward...'Describe the Night' eels like a vital attempt to hold a mirror up to the former Soviet Union — in Joseph’s case, as an American playwright, a mirror in which we might also see ourselves...Intell...
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December 5th, 2017
“No shortage of imagination. But, it lacks the emotional resonance to make us sufficiently care about its characters...The playwright doesn't succeed at blending his wildly different stylistic tones and narrative lurches with sufficient finesse. For every scene that crackles with dramatic tension...
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