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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Manipulation With Music

In "The Emigrant's Position," Leonid Trushkin of the Anton Chekhov Theater is in his element. He took a formulaic play rippling with sentimentality, one-liners and cutesiness and filled it out with a band of popular actors to keep the audience gaga-eyed.

This time it is a play by Hanna Slutski about Miri, a down-and-out Russian divorcee in Israel. She hates the girl next door for making ends meet by working as a prostitute, but when she sees a man's ad in the paper for a woman to bear him a child for pay, she jumps at the chance and even runs the price up from $20,000 to $30,000.

Watching over it all is a folksy fiddler, the proverbial fiddler on the roof, who passes judgment on no one and spouts feel-good wisdom about God, love and Jerusalem, and encourages us to like the music we hear and the play we are watching.

The good fiddler notwithstanding, the music is awful. Trushkin, more a craftsman than a director, builds neat productions that push emote buttons. One of his favorite tricks is to repeat short, loud bursts of music during blackouts that shake the spectators' gizzards before the next scene starts. He does it in every show.

In this one it is a mindless synthesizer ditty by Mark Minkov that follows you around for hours afterward like a cold wind.

Slutski's characters are of the paint-by-numbers sort.

Miri (Yevgenia Simonova) is a pretty, but mopey mother doing her best to bring up a lively teenage son, Ilya (Alexander Usov). Ilya takes an immediate disliking to the quiet and generous Alex (Vladimir Menshov), who claims to want to buy a baby, but is really looking for love. Meanwhile, Ilya falls for the cute, bubbly and big-hearted neighborhood prostitute (Tatyana Augshkap) who is a replacement for the sweetheart he left back in Moscow.

One night when he wants to buy her favors, she sells him the "emigrant's position" -- she stands across the room and lets him talk his heart out.

Armen Dzhigarkhanyan, a bear of a man and a beast of an actor, plays the fiddler with his trademark panache. But if you want to see this actor at his best, go watch him move mountains in "Krapp's Last Tape" at the Dzhigarkhanyan Theater.