Peter Morgan Turns His Pen From ‘The Crown’ to the Kremlin

Going from Princess Diana, a lovely icon who generated waves of sympathy, to Vladimir Putin, an icy villain who generates waves of disdain, might be difficult for some writers.

Not Peter Morgan.

After pulling back the curtain on the British royal family for six seasons of “The Crown,” Morgan was keen to move on. He had an idea for a play about the oligarchs who, in the 1990s, helped propel an obscure Putin to power and then had to watch as their Frankenstein changed the course of Russian history in a disastrous way.

The resulting drama, “Patriots,” which opens on Broadway on April 22, offered Morgan a different way to approach recent history, and a new challenge: switching from the royals, who are household names but not ultimately very powerful, to oligarchs, who are super powerful but not generally household names.

Morgan enjoys writing about the vilified, giving them a fighting chance. In “Patriots,” he creates a jigsaw of four Russian men, their fates intertwining in the post-Soviet era, who represent a Byzantine spectrum of moral values.

“It’s just a delicious combination of characters,” Morgan, 60, told me, in an interview at the Ethel Barrymore Theater in Times Square. “There’s a sort of violence, whereas in ‘The Crown,’ there’s this politeness and there’s repression, and it’s very female. There’s something very male, very violent about this play. It felt like a natural thing to do, having spent so much time in the one world to go into another world just to relax a little.”

Will Keen, left, as Vladimir Putin and Michael Stuhlbarg as Boris Berezovsky in “Patriots,” at the Ethel Barrymore Theater in Manhattan.Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
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