‘Kleptocracy’ highlights Russia’s powerful players as they fall and rise to power

The funny yet tragic historical timeline unfolds at Arena Stage through Feb. 24

 ‘Kleptocracy’ highlights Russia’s powerful players as they fall and rise to power
Christopher Geary (Vladimir Putin) in the world premiere of Kleptocracy at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.

Written by “House of Cards’” Kenneth Lin, the opening night of “Kleptocracy” at the Arena Stage proved to be a night to remember – entertainment-wise and historically-speaking. The show tells the story of Russia’s collapse in 2003 through the fall of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Vladimir Putin’s rise to power. 

Known as the leader of the Oligarchs, Khodorkovsky, played by Max Woertendyke, has just become Russia’s richest man after obtaining ownership of Yukos Oil. Money, his beautiful wife (Brontë England-Nelson) and an obscene amount of corruption brought Khodorkovsky to power. 

When Khodorkovsky is jailed for fraud and loses everything, Vladimir Putin, eerily played by Christopher Geary, rises to power as president of Russia. After Putin freezes Khodorkovsky’s shares in Yukos Oil, the former scandalous oligarch turns into a “political prisoner and a freedom fighter.”

The scenes of Khodorkovsky fighting Putin are filled with irony due to the fact that Putin is a replica of Khodorkovsky when he was younger and rising to power. The actors portray the tension and high stakes that are present in Russia’s failing economy. As the Russian people cry for fair and free elections backed by a reformed Khodorkovsky, Geary portrays the tense yet powerful Putin who is worrying about his possible collapse of power. 

Despite the serious and downcast mood of the events, “Kleptocracy” throws the audiences bits of humor that cannot be ignored. With changing backdrops, smoky special effects and real-life audio clips, the production’s technical elements enhance an incredible story that catches the attention of all ages.  

Not only does the play offer a timeline of Russian history, it also provides unmistakable juxtaposition between then and present-day America, while adding to the humor of it all. 

This triple threat of horror, comedy and incredible acting makes “Kleptocracy” a play that politically-aware college students should attend, as well as any person interested in a remarkable night. 

Arena Stage provides a “Pay Your Age Program” to those under 30 years old to ensure affordable options when viewing their productions. “Kleptocracy” will run through Feb 24 in the Kreeger Theater at Arena Stage.  


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