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Review Roundup: KLEPTOCRACY At Arena Stage

Review Roundup: KLEPTOCRACY At Arena StageArena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater presents the world premiere of Kenneth Lin's timely cautionary tale of capitalism run amok, Kleptocracy. Inspired by the power struggle between the richest of the Oligarchs and an ambitious Vladimir Putin after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Lin (House of Cards) explores U.S. - Russia relations then and now. Directed by Jackson Gay, and by special arrangement with Robert Ahrens, Mickey Liddell and Michael Mills, Kleptocracy runs January 18 - February 24, 2019 in the Kreeger Theater.

"Kleptocracy is the most dangerous play at Arena Stage this season," shares Artistic Director Molly Smith. "Dangerous because playwright Kenneth Lin has taken us right into the heart of greed, manipulation and the rise of the wealthy and Putin in Russia in the '90s and '00s. It's a fascinating prism through which to examine our relationship with Russia in the United States right now."

Tickets may be purchased online at arenastage.org by phone at 202-488-3300 or at the Sales Office at 1101 Sixth Street, SW, D.C.

Let's see what the critics have to say!

Kate Wingfield, Metro Weekly: Such hobbyhorses aside, those thrilled to find a play on such a niche subject will likely be content to ignore the flaws and enjoy Lin's obvious expertise and brainy flair. Those less engaged with the politics will have to settled for a few good performances and some insight into just how much "meddling" there has always been between the world's current, and former, superpowers.

Ian Thal, DC Metro Theater Arts: The buzz around Lin for his television work and past playwriting prizes all but guarantees that Kleptocracy will make its rounds on the regional theater circuit once its run at Arena Stage is done. However, one hopes there will be much-needed rewrites between now and then, so that maybe there will be a revised version at least half as "fearless" as the posters proclaim in the Arena's lobby.

Mary Ann Johnson, MD Theatre Guide: It is a very timely play, and serves as a clarion call to wake up and start paying deep attention to the man behind the curtain. A little more nuance in the supporting characters would have been welcome, but the cast played their parts well, with the grimness of people just trying to survive one more day.

Kelle Long, BroadwayWorld: Word to the squeamish - the live theater aspect will not spare you from any blood. Hair, wig and makeup designer Dave Bova not only ushers the cast through different ages and eras but also opts for realistic gore. It is fitting for the topic, but the graphic nature can also come as a shock. Artists have long carried the banner to remind civil society that 'it can't happen here' is a fallacy. Lin reminds us that expunging enemies before oncoming trains is hopefully still impermissible, but we can't forget that worse atrocities have recently transpired on the global stage. If we choose to insert ourselves in foreign affairs, we need to remember just who we're dealing with.

Peter Marks, Washington Post: Misha Kachman's dreary, jagged set in Arena's Kreeger Theater is lighted with ominous shadows by Masha Tsimring; aside from a couple of unfortunate wigs in the early going, the actors are outfitted impressively, by Jessica Ford. That goes especially for the elegant costuming of the terrific Candy Buckley, who provides the evening's one outstanding performance, as an American identified in the program as a "White House official." In a turn brimming with bluster and insouciance, Buckley delivers a convincing account of what Lin presents as American complicity in the bleak dashing of hopes for a Russia that will play fair and square. In a more stirring rendition of this sorry state of affairs, she'd have more help.

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