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“The kind of historical revisionism that is thrilling onstage, but deadly in government...Earnest performances are a key ingredient in the magical realism that Joseph and Sardelli impressively sustain for nearly three hours...An arresting production that often makes us feel like we're in a Russian theater...Much more than an engrossing tall tale...It heroically wrestles with the slippery nature of truth itself, and unnervingly demonstrates why its alternatives are so seductive.” Full Review
“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, there's another that quickly lapses into tedium. The links between the characters and the complicated series of events depicted often prove frustratingly elusive to decipher." Full Review
“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 required by the overbearing plot. You spend a lot of time wondering if they are real — to history, that is — but none wondering if they are true. All too evidently, and disastrously, they are not." Full Review
“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?...Still, it’s a pleasure that someone has finally figured out to fully exploit Tina Benko's talents...'Let me tell you a story,' the ancient Yevgenia creaks...And as long as she's telling it, it’s riveting.” Full Review
“Ambitious, uneven and hard-to-describe...An intriguing but too-often confounding play...The writer gives his historically set storytelling a heightened imaginative lift. But often the changes in style are just too odd to fathom, coincidences are too much of a stretch...Sardelli directs with a wide and careless brush...The actors do their best to shift playing styles, but often the comic moments — and even some of the dramatic ones — are played so broad as not to be believed at all." Full Review
“A fact-based epic drama of enormous scope...Rich, fascinating, bulging and unwieldy; Joseph weaves an interesting story, helped along by bravura performances...But while drama of this historic complexity can be highly rewarding, Joseph’s play does not quite succeed...We get a jigsaw-like evening in which you have many complete sections but can’t piece them together...Ambiguity in drama can be effective, but not when you lose your audience during the first act.” Full Review
“Joseph creates a weird tapestry of truth and lies in his new drama...This overwhelming saga asks hard questions on the relationships between government and media, citizens and dictators, and how people manage to live through decades of upheaval...The plot stretches credulity but in Joseph’s shadowy world, it doesn’t matter. This is a dreamscape of epic proportions enveloping theatergoers with Joseph’s storytelling magic as it stuns with unrelenting anger at authoritarian monsters.” Full Review
"We'd be more intrigued if the people onstage were more engaging...Then again, playwriting of this breadth and intellectual interest doesn't come along every day...There is considerable satisfaction to be had as the various puzzle pieces click into place...Even when the play is taking its own sweet time, one can enjoy a cast that is adept at hopscotching across the decades...There are the seeds of a more powerful play inside 'Describe the Night,' but, still, it's a risky, rangy work." Full Review
“Ambitious, pertinent, resonant, sometimes compelling but often confusing...One can see what Joseph is about here – erasing the boundaries of time...pushing the Stalinist era flush up against the current day...If the production doesn’t hold together as one would wish, you leave wanting to encourage the playwright to keep going with it — to paraphrase ‘Angels of America,’ a comparable but more lucid work of breadth and depth, intelligence and passion: Let the great rework begin.” Full Review
“Ambitious but dramatically unpersuasive and unimpressively acted and directed…The actors, trapped in the play's artificially European atmosphere, cannot make any of this humanly affecting. The worst offender is Grenier, who attempts to sound like a gruff…Russian by continually blasting his lines as if he were acting without a mic in Madison Square Garden…Burstein plays with restraint against this bombast but is unable to translate the dross of his lines into the gold of theatrical reality.” Full Review
“An ambitious but anemic drama...Puzzle pieces eventually all snap together as the dramatic mash-up explores the weight of history, the slipperiness of truth and the power of connections...Performances run the gamut from convincing to cartoonish under the direction of Sardelli. When all is said and done, the nearly three-hour play lacks a cumulative punch. Describe the 'Night' — intriguing, long, and low-impact." Full Review
"We are drawn in, bit by bit, never really able to see the grandness of this structurally solid play until the final scene. And then it all comes together, shockingly. Maybe a bit too tidy, but the play’s intricate and finely woven plot outweighs the contrivance of the intertwined relationships, leaving us fully enthralled until the elegant ending...It is no lie to say how funny and touching, smart and engrossing, and powerfully exciting and engaging 'Describe the Night' is." Full Review
“'Describe the Night' is undoubtedly Joseph's most ambitious play. The play is epic, both in in terms of its length and scope...Joseph is a good enough storyteller to ensure that this is a unified and absorbing historic drama even though it jumps back and forth in time and setting...A top notch cast...If there's any weak spot in this otherwise smartly constructed and presented drama, it's in the final scene which works too hard to put everything into a neat package.” Full Review
“’Describe the Night’ is a question for which there is no answer...Joseph plays connect-the-dots with historical facts and figures spanning 90 years that might – or might not – have any connection, and asks us to see a familiar face in the resulting picture...The use of such authentic and historically accurate events and characters imbue ‘Describe the Night’ with great plausibility...While it could have used some trimming, ‘Describe the Night’ is a compelling story." Full Review
“Mixing historical characters and fictional ones, the play covers 90 years of Russian history from 1920 to 2010 and travels to ten locales in three countries. The pertinent themes are that of fake news and repression in a totalitarian state but at almost three hours, the play becomes both tiresome and convoluted. Another problem is that most viewers are unlikely to know where the truth ends and where Joseph's invention begins.” Full Review
"An ambitious and complex work...The story jumps around in time and place and challenges the audience to follow along. There are scenes that are quite dramatic, others that are very funny and a few that don’t have much impact but are necessary...While I found the play intellectually satisfying, it did not engage me fully at the emotional level. The characters seem more like pieces of a puzzle than individuals worthy of empathy. Nevertheless, it offers a stimulating theatrical experience.” Full Review
“Without a doubt, Joseph knows how to tell a sprawling, convoluted tale that spans decades...Slowly and with great craftsmanship, over the course of three hours and many more scenes, Joseph puts the many disparate pieces together to create a broad panoramic portrait of totalitarianism...If that sounds dreary and painful in a Soviet sort of way, Joseph’s soap-opera tendencies make the story anything but...’Grand soap opera or great play, 'Describe the Night' is that rare must-see in the theater." Full Review
“Joseph’s ambitious, epic, and ultimately memorable drama...Sometimes, you will be one step ahead of Joseph, and sometimes, you will be two steps behind. And yes, perhaps you won’t care. But the rewards for those who stick with the work are bountiful. Not only is Joseph’s ultimate solution to this Chinese Puzzle of a play both ingenious and surprising, you will find yourself heading into the night with a rejiggered outlook on the concept of ‘reality’.” Full Review
“A strange but often interesting play...The weaving of characters into the different periods can be confusing even though the actors are exceedingly good...Sardelli handles moments of intense conversation with skill...Still, there is something lacking in what the author has tried to do...One might yearn to learn more about Babel with less skipping around to make connections. Ideas clash, and the result is more of an uneasy mix than the searing look at what happened to Babel." Full Review
"All that meta-literary conceit might sound too clever by half. But director Giovanna Sardelli maintains a taut sense of intrigue for close to three hours and brings out the script’s skewed humour...The entire cast adopts a suitably bizarre style of acting...The play’s final scenes tie up all its historical loose ends a little too neatly, thereby weakening the story’s enigmatic power. But 'Describe the Night' still brings us on an enthrallingly warped ride through Russian history." Full Review
"Part of the great fun comes from seeing how the stories intersect as the play shifts between different time periods and relationships. Joseph does a masterful job crafting rich characters whose tragedies and triumphs are immediately compelling...Director Giovanna Sardelli displays a skilled hand in keeping the many moving pieces flowing gracefully...Expertly cast...Joseph’s warnings about politics, corruption, and manipulation couldn’t be any more resonant right now." Full Review
“Exquisitely acted by the cast and directed with a supple grace...The play is its own vivid, perfectly paced patchwork of memory, lies, and revelations. Raw confrontation and violence share the same orbit as flashes of magical realism...Sardelli and Joseph crisply marshal the play’s complex structure, immersing us in its contrasting eras, which flash up as guiding graphics on the back wall...The play uses much mirroring of past and present to subtle and powerful effect.” Full Review
"Cryptic, lyrical, engrossing, if occasionally ponderous...What distinguishes Joseph’s work is his non-linear time line...It can get confusing—he’s not overly generous with clues—but it’s also intriguing...Sardelli’s direction is straightforward but just a little bit sluggish...Burstein and Grenier make perfect foils for each other, as both friends and foes...'Describe the Night' effectively summons up the Cold War era in a very character-driven way." Full Review
“An overlong, overly wordy mash-up of history and invention...We get real and imagined events, braided together and spiraling over nearly a century of Russian history...It’s terribly difficult to describe it all, but suffice it to say that the work is ambitious. Terrifically ambitious, sprawling, overlong, overplotted, uneven, and filled with wonderful performances...But, unfortunately, it does not nourish the hungry theatergoer.” Full Review
“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...Intelligent, playful performances...The genius of ‘Describe the Night’ is its recognition of the intellectual overlap between Russia’s creators and its tyrants: both understand the power of story.” Full Review
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.
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
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
See it if You enjoy a though provoking experience. You can go with the flow and wait to see how all the strings attach. Enjoy depth.
Don't see it if You need linear play structure. Seek a light sit back and entertain me play.
See it if you like plays about connection, "six degrees of separation"
Don't see it if you're over the anti-communist propaganda and roll your eyes at the writer's obvious love for capitalism and America
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.
See it if an interesting and well-acted story told in a creatively and complexly crafted play--engaging all the way through
Don't see it if you require huge emotion--this play's strengths are its intelligence, poetry, and moments of wonderful writing
See it if You like Tom Stoppard-lite. If you enjoy this playwright (guards at the taj) you will find him out of his depth here. Tina Benko is great.
Don't see it if You've had enough of overly long plays trying laboriously to connect the dots across time. It strains to be profound & becomes overextended
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.