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From 9 critic and 11 member reviews
Members say: Absorbing, Ambitious, Slow, Entertaining, Great staging

About the show

A new verse play examining the final two years in the life of Russia's most enduring poet, Alexander Pushkin. More…

Always quick to take offense, delusionally jealous, forever in debt, and censored by Tsar Nicholas I, Pushkin was also Russia’s first literary superstar. 'Pushkin' chronicles the sufferings of an artist of modest rank and mixed race, the confrontation between his exceptional talent and a flawed society, and the painful choice between duty and personal happiness. In his struggles to end serfdom and reform his homeland, Pushkin raised his voice above exile and censorship to turn his art into a substitute for politics poetically declaring, “Autocratic miscreant, Thee, thy throne I detest.” 

The Wall Street Journal

"Tautly told and staged with hurtling momentum by Christopher McElroen, 'Pushkin' is one of the best new plays to open in New York in recent memory, and this fabulously well-acted production, performed in an 80-seat black-box theater, puts you a heartbeat away from the action...If you didn’t know that the characters in 'Pushkin' were speaking in verse, you could easily fail to realize it until well into the evening, so involving is the high-stakes plot and so good the acting." Full Review


"Gambling, palace intrigue, and poetry abounds in Leaf’s imaginative and engrossing historical drama. In the course of two acts and numerous scenes, the eventful life of the great Russian author is skillfully dramatized...McElroen’s exquisite staging is a glorious series of tableaus, stage pictures, and often searing confrontations with dashes of humor...With its fine writing and impeccable presentation, 'Pushkin' is a compelling theatrical exploration of a fascinating literary figure." Full Review


"A compelling, true-to-life historical blank verse play imagined and implemented by the creative playwright Jonathan Leaf that will both fascinate and spur the researcher in you...Thanks to the talent of the author Mr. Leaf, the play about Pushkin could have been written by Pushkin himself as it rings with Pushkinesque verve...The 11-person cast in 'Pushkin' is generally strong...Overall the production provides a clever engaging examination of one of Russia's most significant literary figures." Full Review

Village Voice

"What’s most impressive about Leaf’s biographical play ‘Pushkin’ that Leaf never chooses the easy way out for himself or for his audience...This is an ambitious drama in verse, conceived on a large scale...Leaf re-creates a whole lost Russian society on the stage, without ever making the mistake of trying too hard to underline contemporary resonances...Lassiter is perfect both visually and emotionally." Full Review

DC Metro Theater Arts

"McElroen’s slow-paced direction and the cast’s controlled emotions and sometimes stilted delivery evoke the formality of the Tsarist court. But the rigidity too often feels enervated...Might benefit from a slightly more accelerated pace and a greater emotional revelation of the passions that drive the characters’ actions. But the new play is an intelligent and informative examination of the influential Russian literary icon, his pivotal work, and his unsettled times." Full Review

Edge New York

"The work is well directed by Christopher McElroen...The design of the work is amazing....Frankly, even though the work is interesting, at two hours it is too long...If the scene changes were minimized, the play would slim down to a better length...This work was diminished by a busyness that detracted from the strong story, lilting verse, and a cast of well-credited, talented actors." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"John Leaf’s play lacks the energy verse is meant to inspire. It is devoid of rhythm and any emotional immediacy...Despite an ensemble stacked with accomplished actors, we are presented one-note, two dimensional characters...There is no dynamic variation in tone from one scene to the next, lacking any semblance of an arch...The core is good...These actors are good...This director is good. But it should have been worked on and developed until it was as emotionally affecting." Full Review

The New York Times

"Leaf takes liberties here and there, but he sticks close to historical fact in tracing the last few years of Alexander Pushkin...The tantalizing potential of his story remains out of reach, though, in the unwieldy 'Pushkin.' There is no vigor to the language, no fever of emotion to match the intrigue of the action...The action always feels removed in time and space...Unhelpfully, and perplexingly, McElroen stages many scenes with actors’ backs to half the audience." Full Review


"It's rich source material, which is why it is almost impressive how boring playwright Jonathan Leaf manages to make his story...Within the first five minutes of this soporific verse play, we know why it has hitherto remained unproduced...It's mostly downhill from that arresting first image in director Christopher McElroen's sluggish production...All of this represents a wasted opportunity when one considers the machine that Pushkin raged against." Full Review

Rhymed, Absorbing, Ambitious, Historical, Brilliant writing

See it if You know Russian history (or don't & want to), Pushkin's history (or want to), love great acting, rhymed lines (or both).

Don't see it if You can't stand good drama, hate history and literature, love slavery (and serfdom), love monarchy and censorship, or hate imperfections.

Intelligent, Great writing, Ambitious, Slow

See it if You know who Pushkin is, can be riveted by a take told in iambic pentameter, applaud highly creative work and can tolerate imperfection.

Don't see it if A slow pace and sleepy delivery makes you snooze, you're VERY annoyed by sometimes hard to understand lines, or you can't bring a sweater.

Well-acted, Psychologically astute, Wide-ranging, Good ensemble staging, Narrative-driven

See it if you want to see a bare-bones version of what Pushkin dealt with in his last years, writing amid political repression, racism and slander.

Don't see it if you care more for bright lights and fast pacing than for a sympathetic portrayal of an artist in the midst of troubles.

Dated, Disappointing, Slow, Cliched, Banal

See it if You’re a Russian or Pushkin fan.

Don't see it if You want feeling behind the language or a script that MOVES.

Also Read that this play was in verse, but I couldn’t hear it at all, just ... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Dated, Disappointing, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see a piece of history performed

Don't see it if You want a faster paced, action driven show.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Entertaining, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you're interested in romance, tragedy, writers, politics, and different types of characters working through difficulties apart and together

Don't see it if I can't think of a reason--it's a verse play, but the verse is enormously accessible

Absorbing, Great writing, Intelligent, Great staging, Thought-provoking

See it if I loved Pushkin's short stories but knew little about the author. The characters come to life in this play.And the dialog...amazing!

Don't see it if You're looking for a musical comedy

Ambitious, Clever, Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging

See it if You enjoy historical drama or Russian literature? But I thoroughly enjoyed this play and think it works regardless.

Don't see it if You don't like theater?

Absorbing, Clever, Epic, Entertaining, Masterful

See it if See the play if you like a great story and absorbing theater. (This is a wonderful drama telling the fascinating story of Pushkin)

Don't see it if don't see the play if you only like musicals. the language is lyric, but this is not Sponge Bob Square Pants, (which I also liked).

Entertaining, Intense, Riveting, Absorbing, Masterful

See it if you enjoy a thrilling edge of your seat play; i did not know anything about Pushkin prior to the show; i can't wait to learn more about him!

Don't see it if you aren't able to follow the story as there are some interesting twists and turns

During previews
Banal, Slow, Dated

See it if you have an intense interest in Russian history and/or literary figures, you don't require high stakes to remain engaged in a story

Don't see it if you expect a script to be rigorously thought-out, you dislike overtly "talky" plays, you want high drama with major stakes.

Also Pushkin is dull. Exorbitantly so. It is long winded. It has an act bre... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (19)