. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Season Begins on High Note

What better way to begin a season than with Inna Churikova?

It gives you class, talent and a living legend all in one. Right there at the top of it all.

What's more, Thursday evening's 7 p.m. premiere of Art-Club XXI's production of "The Harmless One," starring the great Churikova, brings together a host of other gifted artists in what promises to be one of the year's most unusual shows. Also starring in Nadezhda Ptushkina's modern version of the Biblical Rachel-Leah-Jacob story is Gediminas Taranda, the spectacular character dancer who left the Bolshoi Theater amidst a flurry of publicity in 1994.

Directing is Boris Milgram, whose unorthodox, campish version of Moli?re's "The School for Wives" at the Mossoviet Theater a few years ago marked him as one of the top talents among young Moscow directors.

The noted jazzman Vladimir Chekasin provided original music, while the costumes are the work of the well-known designer Alla Kozhenkova.

The play is the product of one of Moscow's most intriguing playwrights. Ptushkina, a prolific writer who claims to be the author of some 50 plays, initially achieved public attention just over a year ago. Her play, "By the Light of Others' Candles," made a big splash when it opened at the Stanislavsky Theater in 1995, and ever since the city has been rife with rumors about what would be the next Ptushkina play to be produced.

Due to snags at various theaters, the honor has fallen to "The Harmless One." Perhaps rightly so. Its daring, contemporary look at the rivalry that arises between Rachel and Leah for the affections of Jacob is excellent material for the theater. After Thursday's opener, the next showings will be at 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sept. 24 at the Mossoviet Theater.

Another show opening this week, playing Thursday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 6 p.m., is "Sonechka and Casanova," Mikhail Levitin's composition based on writings by the poet Marina Tsvetaeva.

As always with Levitin, an iconoclastic auteur director who revels in throwing everything plus the kitchen sink into his shows, it promises to be a quirky, unorthodox outing. With the mercurial Viktor Gvozditsky holding down the lead, it should also become one of the early season's toughest tickets.

The next major premiere comes when the Satirikon Theater kicks off its 1996-97 season Sept. 21, 22 and 23 at 7 p.m. with Vladimir Mashkov's already much talked-about production of Brecht's "The Threepenny Opera."

Mashkov, who has found time over the last few years to become both a popular movie actor and a top theater director, is offering his first directing project since the sensational "Death-Defying Act," which ran at the Tabakov Theater in 1994.

Besides featuring the theater's leading actors Konstantin Raikin (as Mack the Knife) and Natalya Vdovina, "The Threepenny Opera" has already gained an almost scandalous reputation as one of the most expensive theater productions in Russian history. Eyewitnesses of summer dress rehearsals say there are some special effects guaranteed to blow the mind.

At the Taganka Theater, while the renowned Yury Lyubimov sets down to work on a big production of Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel, "The Brothers Karamazov," the first new show of the season will belong to the unknown director Valentin Ryzhy.

"Moscow-Petushki," playing Sept. 19 and 27, is reportedly less a dramatization of Viktor Yerofeyev's famous novella than it is a collage of several of the author's works.

On Sept. 26 and 30, the Theater Na Maloi Bronnoi will finally bring out a show it worked on for much of the past season, Artyom Khryakov's contemporary play, "Playing the Dummy." Billed as a "tragicomedy that depicts a card game as a metaphor for life," the show is directed by Khryakov himself.

When the Sovremennik Theater opens its doors in early October, it will feature its new production of "We Are Riding, Riding, Riding." This sitcom, which takes a look at two lonely women vying for the attention of a lonesome electric meter reader, is the newest play by Nikolai Kolyada, Russia's most popular playwright. The show was played a handful of times over the summer, which gives it a headstart as one of the more recognizable titles among the new season's openers. Several theaters have announced upcoming premieres but without firm dates attached to them yet. Most should arrive in October and November.

At the Contemporary Play School, Iosif Raikhelgauz is rehearsing an unusual version of "Don Quixote," culled together by Viktor Korkiya and Alexander Lavrin from the works of various Russian playwrights.

Boris Lvov-Anokhin will celebrate his own 70th birthday with a staging of Eugene Scribe's "The Tales of Margaret of Navarre" at the Novy Drama Theater, while the Vakhtangov Theater will commemorate its 75th season with a host of activities. It would appear, however, that none of them will include a new show, at least in the near future.