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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Highs and Lows of This Year's Theater Season

In our fourth annual year-in-review, we take our usual stubbornly idiosyncratic and admittedly prejudiced look at the fast-retreating theater season.


Sentimental Favorite: Maria Mironova and Mikhail Gluzsky in the Contemporary Play School's "An Old Man Wanted to Leave His Old Woman." The splendid octogenarians made us wish we were that young.


Biggest Surprise: "My Poor Marat" at the Mossoviet. Let's be honest -- Director Andrei Zhitinkin is one of the nicest, most colorful personalities around, but nothing in his checkered career could have prepared us for a show this wonderful. Give us more!


The Triumphant Return: It had been four years since Kama Ginkas worked in Moscow when he unveiled his stunning "K.I. from 'Crime'" at the Theater Yunogo Zritelya and reminded us that he is one of Russia's best directors.


He Can't Miss: Valery Fokin has perfected the "great show in a weird space." This time it was his scintillating dramatization of Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" in an expanding box at the Satirikon.


The Critic's Miss: "White Columns," the Commonwealth of Taganka Actors. We said this ruthlessly honest look at corruption and stupidity would be controversial. We were wrong. It was ignored and then, most undeservedly, disappeared


Missing in Action: Pyotr Fomenko rehearsed Pushkin's "The Queen of Spades" and Tolstoy's "War and Peace," but didn't finish them; Yury Lyubimov finished "Medea" for the Taganka and took it to Greece, but wouldn't let it play in Moscow.


Top New Writer: Oleg Antonov, "The Deadly Number." Vladimir Mashkov's direction for the Tabakov Theater was superb, Yefim Udler's lighting spectacular, and the quartet of actors sublime. But they couldn't have done it without that great play. A close runner-up was Nadezhda Ptushkina for her saucy "By Someone Else's Candlelight" at the Stanislavsky.


Top Dead Writer: Fyodor Dostoevsky, who never wrote a play, had four works adapted for the stage: "The Town of Stepanchikovo" twice, "Crime and Punishment" twice, "Uncle's Dream," and a humongous trilogy of "The Idiot" (with Part 3 delayed until fall).


The Walking Dead Award: Maxim Gorky. Just when you thought it was safe to go to the theater again ... four productions of Gorky's gratefully forgotten dramatic carrion grimly floated to the surface.


Second-Year Sensation: Natalya Vdovina. After a dazzling debut last year in "The Magnificent Cuckold," the gifted young actress wowed us again as the Sister in "The Metamorphosis."


Sophomore Jinx: It's a tie between the 2-year-old Fomenko Studio, whose vacuous production of Alexander Blok's "The Puppet Show" closed after only three showings, and the former pop star Pyotr Mamonov, who was appalling in his second theatrical vehicle, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "No One Writes to the Colonel" at the Stanislavsky.


The Anti-Jinx Award: "Ivanov's Family" at the Pushkin, an eloquent answer to what some say is a curse preventing this house from ever having a hit show.


Better-Late-Than-Never Award: A tie between Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose 43-year-old play, "The Victors' Feast," had its world premiere at the Maly, and Sergei Kokovkin, who directed the first production of his own 26-year-old play, "The Simpleton," for the Laboratory. Both plays -- how shall we say it? -- took liberties with "Soviet reality."


Trend of the Year: Small. The tendency budded a few years ago, but this season it flourished. Virtually all of the year's best shows were played on small stages or in small spaces adapted for performance.


Person of the Year: The Thug. Kama Ginkas was mugged and left with a severe concussion, the actress Yulia Borisova -- with two broken ribs.


But the year's most heinous incident involved Leonid Heifetz, the now-former artistic director of the Russian Army Theater. Heifetz was beaten and threatened with death were he ever to set foot in his theater again. Ignored by city, federal and military authorities, he resigned in disgust and fear.


Need we say that none of the crimes has been solved?