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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Capital Set For Global Theater Fest

The next time your friends from Texas run out of big ideas, tell them to contact Valery Shadrin. He, and the Moscow-based International Confederation of Theater Associations which he heads up, ought to have a thing or two to suggest.

How about this, for instance: a three-month theater festival opening March 30 in Moscow, and featuring 35 venues from 17 countries. The Second Chekhov International Theater Festival, as it is called, is a prodigious undertaking at a time when Moscow has soared to the top of the world's most expensive cities and organizational nightmares remain the order of the day. But the Confederation is nothing if not cheeky.

Picture the former Soviet Union in the inter-coup period of fall 1992: Georgia is at war with Abkhazia, Armenia with Azerbaijan, there is a coup in Tajikistan, and the ties between the former republics and former Soviet bloc nations are shorting out like a severed high voltage cable in a puddle of rain water.

To the folks at the Confederation, it sounded like a great zone before making it to Moscow; an Armenian troupe waited three days to get out of a closed airport and barely made its show date; a Czech company saw its funding evaporate before being saved at the 12th hour by a generous sponsor. The show did go on.

The upcoming Second Chekhov Festival is evidence of more than just its organizers' fortitude. It is also a striking sign of the respect in which Russian culture, and theater in particular, is held throughout the world. The numbers -- and quality -- of the troupes taking part are impressive.

The headliners include many of the top names in world theater. In order of appearance, they include Germany's Peter Stein, Lithuania's Eimuntas Nekrosius, England's Declan Donnellan and Peter Brook, Russia's Anatoly Vasilyev, Greece's Theodoros Terzopoulos, Georgia's Robert Sturua and Italy's Giorgio Strehler.

While the governments of Italy, France (through the French Cultural Center), England (through the British Council), Germany (through the Goethe Institute), Venezuela and others are picking up portions of the bill to have their countries represented, the United States is curiously absent.

One of the most intriguing entries from among the 10 participating former Soviet republics will come from the Suziria Theater of Ukraine. On April 10 at the Contemporary Play School, it will perform "Radiation of Fatherhood," a play written decades ago by the Polish playwright Karol Wojtyla, now better known as Pope John Paul II.

Britain will be represented by the Cheek by Jowl touring company and the Volcano Theater Company. Cheek by Jowl, led by co-founder Declan Donnellan, will perform what New York's TheaterWeek magazine calls a "stunning production" of "The Duchess of Malfi," John Webster's bloody 17th-century tragedy of greed and intrigue. It plays April 11 to 13.

Volcano will offer a provocative movement show, "L.O.V.E.," based on Shakespeare's sonnets. Directed by Nigel Charnock, and playing May 21 to 23, it was praised as "pornography for intellectuals" by the feisty British weekly Time Out, and labeled with an approving stiff upper lip as "rough sex for the 1990s" by the Guardian.

The festival kicks off March 30 to April 1 on the Mossoviet Theater stage "Pod Kryshei" with "The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky" by the French Compagnie Champ Libre. This one-man show features Redjep Mitrovitsa as the great dancer who went mad in 1919 and left an extraordinary record of that tragic transformation in some vivid writings now known as the dancer's diary.

The National Choreography Center of Tours, France, brings its "Fait Maison" to the Mossoviet Theater mainstage April 1 and 2. Daniel Larrieu's production consists of 12 experimental "dance-plays" incorporating the devices of music and painting to expand the possibilities of conventional dance.

An unquestioned highlight of the festival will be the world premiere of Peter Stein's latest production, "Uncle Vanya" by Anton Chekhov. Like Stein's acclaimed 1994 staging of "Oresteia" with Russian actors (running April 6 and 7 at the Natalya Sats Children's Musical Theater), it is a grand, multicultural project featuring Italian actors from the Teatro di Parma and the Teatro di Roma. The troupe has spent several months in Russia, rehearsing and soaking up the traditions of Russian life and classical theater. "Uncle Vanya" plays April 2 to 4 at the Chekhov Art Theater.

Chekhov's "Three Sisters," as staged by Eimuntas Nekrosius for the Lithuanian "Life" International Theater Festival, brings to town one of the most talked-about European productions of recent years. Playing April 9 and 10, it presents an intense, metaphorical and sexually charged vision of Chekhov's play about the hard life in a provincial Russian army town.

Following the Suziria Theater and Cheek by Jowl, Peter Brook appears on the Chekhov Art Theater New Stage from April 11 to 14 with his production of Beckett's "Happy Days." Brook, the most influential British director of his age, who first came to Moscow with Paul Schofield playing Hamlet in 1955, staged Beckett's masterpiece in 1995 for the Theater Vidy and the European Theater Space in Lausanne, Switzerland.

It all makes for an auspicious beginning to a festival which, from now until July at least, will earn Moscow the right to be called the capital of world theater.

The Second Chekhov International Theater Festival runs March 30 to July 4. Tickets (from 10,000 to 200,000 rubles) are available at the International Confederation of Theater Associations, 21/1 Leontyevsky Pereulok (929-7074); at the theaters where shows take place; and at some kiosks in downtown Moscow. Performances are in the original language with headphone translation into Russian. The Moscow Times will carry updates each Wednesday on the Stage page and each Friday in the Happenings section.