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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Anguish Of Obscurity

In "Wandering Conflagrations" at the Mossoviet Theater, Boris Milgram appears intent on linking his early reputation as an avant-garde director (an adaptation of Samuel Beckett's "First Love" and a high-camp version of Moli?re's "The School for Wives") with his recently acquired status as a creator of commercial shows (Nikolai Kolyada's "Persian Lilac" and Nadezhda Ptushkina's "As a Lamb"). What a mess he came up with as a result!

"Wandering Conflagrations" is a long-forgotten play by Luka Antropov. Written in 1873, it is a wrenching story about Maxim Kholmin, a floundering, spiritually bankrupt man who clumsily tries to manipulate the women who cross his path.

The bleak atmosphere, the unsympathetic hero and the crumbling of social structures seem to point quite clearly to the plays of Leonid Andreyev, a kind of theatrical decadent who was popular at the turn of the century and who enjoyed a shortlived resurgence in the early 1990s.

In resurrecting the obscure play, Milgram went for a grand-scale show dripping with black humor. However, as played by Yevgeny Glyadinsky, Kholmin comes across not as a parody of the overwrought anti-hero, but as a parody of an actor playing anguish.

Kholmin's wife, the younger sister of the woman he truly loves, is inexplicably played by two actresses (Irina Maximikina as the "before" version and Natalya Merts as "after"). Whatever the move provides in increased alienation, it utterly destroys in terms of character development.

The many incarnations of Yury Kharikov's wildly imaginative set include something suggesting Stonehenge in a swamp and a distorted, dreamlike papier-mache interior. But intriguing as the decoration is as an object, it often sinks the theatrical act by overpowering it.

A bright spot amid the long and obscure show is Anatoly Vasilyev's over-the-top performance of Dikovsky. He plays the ruthless sleaze and cynic who toys with Kholmin with such bug-eyed irony he almost becomes attractive.

Random News: On April 30 the Sovremennik Theater celebrated the 200th performance of "A House Cat of Average Fluffiness," a satire by Vladimir Voinovich and Grigory Gorin. ... The world premiere of Mikhail Ugarov's "The Green Cheeks of April" took place in mid-April at the Freispiele in Magdeburg, Germany.