By Ed Klisus

As the audience entered, John Klenner’s song “Just Friends” as sung by Frank Sinatra, wafted through the space. Sinatra featured this song in his collection of heartbreaking music in his 1962 album All Alone.

The song is fitting and meets expectations for a sad tale of the tragic nature of Russia’s brutal conflagration with Ukraine, as explicated by actor, writer, and director Stephan Morrow in his program notes. After the final bows, Morrow returned to articulate his goal to bring the plight of Ukraine to the forefront of American consciousness through theater; to provide theater that is relevant, “to make work in theater that addresses issues that seem significant.” Morrow characterized his work as a complex “kaleidoscope” of ideas and themes supporting the story.

Morrow’s ”kaleidoscope” metaphor aptly describes the psychic shifts of focus that brought us, sometimes quickly, to scenes of romance, violence, execution, confrontation, political intrigue, espionage, war zones, and towards an aspirant denouement.

Carl Ellis Grant, Josh Alter, Stephan Morrow in Darkness after Night: Ukraine. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Carl Ellis Grant, Josh Alter, Stephan Morrow in Darkness After Night: Ukraine. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

The play opened with Yuri Dubashin (Stephan Morrow) stopping a guard (George Lugo) from beating to death a young soldier prisoner Valery Myshkin (Liam Kyle McGowan). This portentous glimpse into Dubashin’s character garnered sympathy that was to mark his leadership. We discovered that Myshkin’s “crime” was to surreptitiously garner supplies from a depot for starving Russian soldiers in his company. Dubashin warned the young man that he cannot protect him if such actions reoccur.

Natalia Volkodaeva in Darkness after Night: Ukraine. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Natalia Volkodaeva in Darkness After Night: Ukraine. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Throughout the play, Anchorwoman Marusya (Natalia Volkodaeva) delivered regular updates on the Ukraine crisis in the story’s context. Her helpful, personal, rich, and passionate portrayal was enhanced by her rich Eastern European accent, composure, and demeanor.

Protagonist Dubashin was appalled by Russian brutality, well chronicled in a dramatic scene of artillery destroying a hospital filled with children. He defected and joined the Ukraine military leadership in an adventure that took him to Yemen, where he met with CIA operative John Kane (Carl Ellis Grant) and Yemeni citizen Anwar Ibn Suleiman (Josh Alter).

Carl Ellis Grant, Josh Alter, Stephan Morrow in Darkness after Night: Ukraine. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Emilie Bienne, Stephan Morrow, Joe Marshall, George Lugo in Darkness After Night: Ukraine Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

We discovered that tyrant and antagonist Number One (Joe Marshall) was a childhood companion of Dubashin who had risen to the heights of power to energize the ambitions of the Motherland to compel Ukraine into submission. Number One is an avaricious sort, stealing Dubashin’s politically ambitious love interest (Emilie Bienne). In a final stand-off between the two, Number One oddly offers Dubashin a partnership in his world-conquering enterprise. And then, the dramatic denouement.

With a simple stage set, Lighting Designs by Alexander Bartenieff perceptively supported the drama and intrigue. Sound Design was well crafted by Joy Linscheid, ensuring realistic war settings, pathos, and scene transitions.

Runtime is 90 minutes, including intermission.

Darkness After Night: Ukraine

Cast

Stephan Morrow as Yuri Dubashin Joe Marshall as Putinesque Number One Josh Allan Alter as Anwar Ono Emilie Bienne as Andreyeva Ouspenskaya Carl Ellis Grant as John Kane George Lugo as Sgt. Lopahin Liam McGowan as Valery Myshkin Natalia Volkodaeva as as Ukraninian Anchorwan and Marusya

Artistic

Written and Directed by Stephan Morrow Crystal Field, Executive Director Alexander Bartenieff, Lighting Design Joy Linscheid, Sound Design Mathew Seepersad, Stage Manager

Theater for the New City 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street) New York, NY 10003

212-254-1109

Find tickets for this and upcoming shows at https://theaterforthenewcity.net/

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of A Holiday Evening with Samantha Pauly, a Trip to Beautiful Cyprus, A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx, and Kathryn Farmer at Swing 46.