Closed on March 10, 2019
based on the novel by Mikhail Bulgakov
in an adaptation by Edward Kemp
In the streets of Moscow, Margarita is destined to meet a brilliant writer, the Master of her heart. Meanwhile, the Devil and his demonic crew descend on the city to wreak havoc on the literary elite. When Soviet censors imprison the Master to silence him, Margarita joins forces with the dark side in a courageous effort to save her lover.
Supernatural, satirical, and darkly comedic, Mikhail Bulgakov’s celebrated Russian story is a powerful indictment of corrupt government and authoritarian rule.
Closed on March 10, 2019
In an adaptation by
directed by Allison Arkell Stockman
Run Time: 150 minutes,
The play opens mid-rehearsal for the Master’s play, which depicts the historical meeting between the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate and Yeshua Ha-Nozri (Jesus of Nazereth) in ancient Yershalaim (Jerusalem). The play’s director, Trepan, asks the Master to take the rest of the day off.
As the Master makes his way through the streets of Moscow, he meets a beautiful woman, Margarita. In the world of the Master’s play, Pilate asks the High Priest, Kaifa, for Yeshua Ha-Nozri’s release. His request is denied. The Master’s play is denounced by critics, including the prominent literary critic Misha Berlioz. Berlioz assigns her young protégé Ivan, to take charge of the Master’s script.
Six months later in a Moscow park, Berlioz and Ivan debate the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. They are interrupted by Professor Woland, who informs Berlioz that she will die that day. Woland’s prediction comes true when Berlioz slips on sunflower oil and is decapitated by a moving tram. A hysterical Ivan is admitted to an insane asylum, where he is diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The next day, Woland mysteriously appears in Trepan’s apartment and announces that he will be performing a Black Magic Show at the theater. Woland’s demon retinue force Trepan out of the apartment by throwing her to Yalta. Back at the theater, Rimsky and Varukha are overwhelmed by ticket requests, telegrams and surprise visitors. That evening at the Black Magic Show, Woland and his entourage – a trickster named Fagott, the vampire Azazello, and a talking cat named Behemoth – entertain a sold-out audience.
At Stravinsky’s asylum, Ivan meets the Master, who is a fellow patient. Margarita, still distraught at the Master’s disappearance, happens upon Berlioz’s funeral. She is met by Azazello, who suggests that Woland may be able to give her information about the Master. Later that night, Margarita serves as the hostess of Satan’s full moon spring ball and meets a multitude of murderous spirits now living in hell.
In ancient Yershalaim, Pilate orchestrates the murder of Judas of Kiriot, whose betrayal of Yeshua led to his arrest.
Woland offers to grant Margarita her deepest wish in reward for her services, and she uses her power to forgive one of the tortured souls from the ball. Woland offers her another wish, which Margarita uses to summon the Master.
In Yershalaim, Pilate meets with Yeshua’s disciple, Matthew Levi. In another dimension, Fagott and Behemoth set Moscow on fire and loot the burning theater. Azazello tricks the Master and Margarita into drinking poison, killing their earthly bodies while granting them eternal afterlife. They rejoin Woland and his retinue and experience a cataclysm.
Woland leads the lovers to Pontius Pilate, who has been sitting staring at the moon for two thousand years, wracked with guilt for not saving Yeshua.
Many years later, Ivan attributes the strange events surrounding Woland’s visitto the work of “criminal hypnotists.” He admits, however, that he still
becomes agitated every year at the spring full moon, and dreams of Pontius Pilate, Margarita, and the Master.
The World of the Play
Erik Teague brings his unique steampunk aesthetic and exquisite eye for detail to the delightfully demonic world of Mikhail Bulgakov's celebrated novel.
In The News
The Master and Margarita is Helen Hayes Awards Recommended©
"A High-Octane Affair" - The Washington Post
"This rendering of The Master and Margarita felt similarly miraculous!" - DC Metro Theater Arts
"As a night out, Constellation Theatre Company’s production of The Master and Margarita is beyond thrilling, an entertaining genre bender of a show." - dcist
"Constellation proves yet again that they’re a small theatre company to be reckoned with, in another epic and visually stunning production– almost magically contained within the Source’s intimate staging area." - DC Metro Theater Arts
"Alexander Strain and Amanda Forstrom, as the titular lovers, are well-matched. Forstrom's quiet determination is the perfect complement to Strain's impassioned genius." - Broadway World
"The Master and Margarita is one of those works that is a true original, and Constellation’s equally eccentric production will make you grateful you went along for the ride." - DC Theatre Scene
"The Master and Margarita is brimming over with an abundance of fun and profundity that merges into a grand operatic experience."
In an Adaptation By
Allison Arkell Stockman
Assistant Stage Manager
Light Board Programmer
Scott Ward AbernethyWoland and others
Omar D. CruzIvan and others
Louis E. DavisBehemoth and others
Ben LauerRimsky and others
Anna LynchAzazello and others
Alexander Strain*The Master
Jesse TerrillPontius Pilate and others
Moira ToddVarukha and others
Dallas TolentinoFagott and others
Tori TolentinoTrepan and others
Emily WhitworthBerlioz and others
Jared H. GrahamUnderstudy
*Member of Actors' Equity Association
About Mikhail Bulgakov
Mikhail Bulgakov (1891–1940) began his career not as a writer but as a doctor, studying medicine at Kiev University before being drafted by the anti-Bolshevik militia in 1918 as a field doctor in the Russian Civil War. After leaving the military, Bulgakov started working as a correspondent and wrote feuilletons (short stories) for various newspapers.
In 1926, Bulgakov’s semi-autobiographical play The Days of the Turbins premiered at the Moscow Art Theatre under the direction of Konstantin Stanislavsky. The play elicited hostile criticism from Soviet censors but caught the attention of dictator Joseph Stalin, who reportedly saw the show over a dozen times.
Bulgakov continued to write stories and plays combining science fiction and absurd humor, but his satirical portrayal of Soviet values made him a constant target for censorship. By 1929, the Stalinist regime had banned the publication of all of Bulgakov’s works. He wrote to Stalin in desperation: “Everything is forbidden to me, I am ruined, poisoned, I am in a state of complete solitude. Why would you keep a writer in a country where his works cannot exist? I beg of you to take a humane decision to release me.”
Though Stalin denied his request for permission to leave the country, he permitted Bulgakov to continue working at the Art Theatre as a director’s assistant. Stalin’s favor protected Bulgakov from arrests and execution, but simultaneously prevented him from ever working publicly on his writing.
For Stalin’s 60th birthday in 1939, Bulgakov attempted to regain favor with Soviet authorities with Batum, a new play dramatizing Stalin’s early years as a revolutionary, but the play was banned before rehearsals began. This bitter blow to Bulgakov’s career proved fatal to his health, and he died on March 10, 1940.
Bulgakov began working on The Master and Margarita as early as 1928. He burned the first manuscript in a fit of frustration in 1930, only to begin writing it again from scratch the following year. Bulgakov continued revising the novel in secrecy for the remainder of his life; from his deathbed, he dictated the final revisions to his third wife, Elena Sergeevna, who is believed to have been a model for Margarita.
The Master and Margarita remained underground for nearly twenty years after Bulgakov’s death until a monthly magazine published it, heavily censored, in two parts between 1966 and 1967. It became an overnight literary phenomenon, signaling artistic freedom for Russians everywhere. To this day, The Master and Margarita is widely considered the single most significant piece of Soviet satire as well as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century.
- Sarah Anne Sillers
"Bulgakov's novel, published in 1967, is an extraordinary mixture of Faustian romance, anti-Stalinist satire and religious enquiry. Edward Kemp, its current adaptor, has done a first-rate job in unravelling its complex structure. He does full justice to the disruptive arrival of the Mephistophelian Woland, complete with cat and demons, in communist Moscow. He also places the Faustian Master and his adoring Margarita at the centre of the story, and it is her faith in his banned play about the confrontation of Yeshua and Pontius Pilate that becomes the source of redemption." - The Guardian