Chris Tyler plays nihilist leader Vera Sabouroff in Femme Fatale Theater's production of Oscar Wilde's Vera; Or, The Nihlists at HERE Arts Center.
Chris Tyler plays nihilist leader Vera Sabouroff in Femme Fatale Theater's production of Oscar Wilde's Vera; Or, The Nihlists at HERE Arts Center.
(© Hunter Canning)

What are you doing on Valentine's Day? You could spend a lot of money on wine and dinner at a fancy restaurant. You might want to sit at home eating chocolates and watching Olympic figure skating on TV. Or, you could head down to HERE and see Femme Fatale Theater's production of Oscar Wilde's Vera; Or, The Nihlists, the first New York revival since its 1883 debut. On February 14, the show will host a special talkback with Iranian human rights activist Ramin Haghjoo. TheaterMania reporter Zachary Stewart will moderate.

Set in Czarist Russia, Vera follows a group of scrappy nihilists aiming to overthrow the Russian government and spread liberty throughout the land. While the language is distinctively Wilde, the setting is unique, which perhaps explains why Vera is so rarely performed. It's like The Importance of Being Earnest, but instead of sitting in a garden and munching on cucumber sandwiches, the characters are hanging out in a garret and munching on nothing...because they're poor.

In light of the Sochi games and rising anti-gay violence in Russia, Femme Fatale co-directors Robert Ribar and Stephen Gribbin have adapted their production to focus on the global struggle for queer rights. An all-male cast will take the stage, with drag performance artist Chris Tyler starring in the title role. Gribbin and Ribar will join Haghjoo and Stewart for the post-performance discussion on the 14th.

A consultant for the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, Ramin Haghjoo was expelled from Islamic Azad University in his native Iran, solely on the basis of his sexual orientation. He fled Iran shortly after his participation in the 2009 "Green Movement" protests against the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad landed him in the hospital. Now a resident of Philadelphia, he continues to campaign for human rights here and abroad.

So forget all the V-Day clichés. Wouldn't you much rather spend your night in the theater?

Click here to buy tickets for Vera; Or, The Nihlists.