Go see Kleptocracy! An analysis of DC’s future award-winning show



Photo courtesy of C. Stanley Photography

Erin Harper

Some outstanding productions star famed actors and actresses, direction by Tony-winning directors, and feature impeccable sets designed by some of the greatest artists found. Other productions feature unknown performers who give exceptional performances that will eventually skyrocket them to fame. When seeing a show in this day and age,  too often do you get either a great performance or one that lulls you to sleep. There’s no in-between. But take “Kleptocracy,” a historic-drama-turbulent political scandal, and my definition of stellar plays gets thrown in the trash. “Kleptocracy” is not just good; it’s noteworthy. “Kleptocracy” is not ‘just okay;’ it’s incomparable, matchless, unparalleled. It’s a beautifully written script mixed with outstanding acting creating an illustrious play that is well worth your money.

With a name like “Kleptocracy,” I expected to see something dark, full of mystery and secrets. That’s exactly what I saw, and then some.

The world premiere of “Kleptocracy” is held at Arena Stage from January 18 through February 24. With the script composed by Kenneth Lin and directed by Jackson Gay, the play dives into the collapse of the USSR and the rise of the corrupt presidency of Vladimir Putin. The plot of the play is simple, yet effective: former billionaire and oil CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is charged with fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering (though I suspect he was truly a prisoner of conscience due to his outspoken criticism of the President). The play jumps from the period of time before, during, and after Khodorkovsky’s imprisonment, providing background and outside information to the audience. While the stage is not big, each of the actors makes it their own and uses the space to interact with and include the audience.

The most important aspect of the play is not the script. It’s not the props or even the stage crew. It’s the actors. Actors have one of the most important jobs because they must successfully take the screenwriter’s vision and portray it verbally and through actions to the audience. Every single actor did their job, and they did it well. Christopher Geary, who plays Putin, and Max Woertendyke, portraying Khodorkovsky, are not only experts in their field, but they make acting seem effortless and simple. Geary’s and Woertendyke’s droll and jarring interactions add feeling to the play that makes it informative, but also funny. Yet I would have to say that my absolute favorite character is the White House Official, played by Helen Hayes-nominated actress Candy Buckley. In the play, Buckley’s character is a whimsical “White House saleswoman” who makes multiple comical attempts to persuade Putin to invest in Chevron. With the help of the American Dream and a little Beyoncé (which you have to see to understand), Buckley absolutely destroys the line between the actress and the character.

“Kleptocracy,” I can tell, will have an amazing theater season, and I would be surprised if it receives anything less than a Tony nomination. Every detail that went into the production of the play has really paid off. I wholeheartedly recommend a trip down to the Wharf to view this spectacular work of art. Who knows, in a few months, it may be as popular as “Hamilton.”