“Murder is the most powerful political tool. Better than any election or damn assembly. It is the king, the tsar of political actions.”
In the last days of the Russian empire, Bolsheviks gather in secret. Aristocrats squander their evenings in drunken sport. And in a small office, two British spies plot to kill Rasputin.
“Petrograd” is a philosopher’s thriller, blending the cold, existential meandering of a Russian novel with the tight pacing of a spy caper. At the heart of the crisis is Agent Cleary, played with pitch-perfect unease by Colton Pratt.
Pratt completely disappears into character, a collection of nervously discarded cigarettes and sad, sly smiles. His secret agent manipulates through sincerity, forgoing the charisma of a James Bond for a more vulnerable likeability.
The assassination, planned with comical glee by a bored Russian prince, quickly goes awry. Rasputin survives poison, stabbings, even gunshots. His desperate, brutal fight for survival overwhelms his would-be killers, forcing Cleary to finish the job.
Disavowed by British intelligence after the incident, Cleary scrambles to define himself. Is he a loyal soldier or a revolutionary? A slave to ideology or self-interest? The man with friends in every camp must finally decide where he belongs.
“Petrograd” unfolds in moments rather than scenes. At times, they last a single line. The quick jumps honor the story’s graphic novel roots. Unfortunately, costume changes and set pieces slow down—and stretch out—certain transitions. (Blame it on the three-piece suits.)
Rasputin doesn’t appear until the final minutes of Act 1, but Dylan Mosley makes the most of a small role. Pitch-black, disturbingly charismatic… this is not a man to be reasoned with. He must be destroyed.
“Petrograd” contains coarse language, gun violence and sexual suggestion.
David H. Lord Theater at
Cottonwood Center for the Arts
427 E Colorado Ave
Admission: $15 general, $5 students (reserve tickets)
Running Time: 2 hours