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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Raikin Scores Again at Satirikon

Konstantin Raikin gets my vote for Moscow theater's finest guarantor of quality. The actor, director and artistic director seems to do everything better than anyone else no matter what hat he is wearing.

Two weeks ago I even saw him slip through a mile-long line at Sheremetyevo Airport customs before anyone else had a chance to catch his breath and groan. That's how good this guy is.

With his new production of Carlo Goldoni's crazy comedy, "The Chioggian Squabbles," at the Satirikon Theater, Raikin has put another quality show up on the marquee of the theater he has run for about a decade. There's nothing really new in it and, aside from a lot of noisy marital and premarital strife, there isn't much going on in it. But a big cast of young, talented and energetic actors carries out Raikin's soaring and slashing direction with such hell-bent-for-leather efficiency that in the end all you can do is grin and applaud.

Let me get the nit-picking out of the way early. There's probably a little too much of a good thing here, especially in the long second act. The story, about three young couples in the fishing village of Chioggia whose road to matrimony takes them through more fights, fallings-out and court confrontations than any A-list Hollywood couple ever dreamed of, doesn't ever go anywhere. Once all the characters are in place and their relationships are clear, all they do is tussle and tangle. I think a few episodes could have been axed or at least trimmed down. What might have been lost in plot would have been gained in rhythm and speed.

I also found some of the pumped-up machismo (including a merry bout of wife-beating) more cliched than humorous.

But, hey, I'm not arguing with Konstantin Raikin. Who in their right mind would when he has directed a show bursting with as much fun and laughter as this one?

Tony (Konstantin Lavronenko) is a fishing boat captain whose wife, Pascua (Marina Kuzmina), sister and brother live across the street from the household of Fortunato (Grigory Siyatvinda), a fast-talking lather-mouth who works on Tony's boat and drives people nuts with his garbled, incomprehensible speech. Fortunato is blessed with a passionate, that is, red-headed, wife Libera (Agrippina Steklova) and two equally lively sisters-in-law.

While the men are at sea, the women gather to sew and talk and -- when the ne'er-do-well boatman Toffolo (Kirill Mugaiskikh) comes by -- do a bit of harmless flirting. Harmless, that is, until the men come home and find their women have been accepting pieces of baked pumpkin from the blockhead boatman. Thus the aptly chosen title of "The Chioggian Squabbles."

The muscle-bound Tita-Nane (Alexander Zhurman) is the first to break his engagement with Tony's sister Lucietta (Angelina Varganova). Next to fall victim are Tony's brother Beppo (Viktor Yesin) and Libera's sister Orsetta (Anna Yanovskaya). Everyone's anger turns on the hapless Toffolo, who takes them all to court and sets the two families feuding.

That's when things really get crazy, and that brings Isidoro, the judge's assistant, into the equation.

Yury Lakhin is spectacular as the would-be stoic lawman who hides his nerves behind a facade of hilarious mannerisms. Everything on his desk, from the abacus to his bell to his blotter, either contains food or can be used to consume some. Lakhin's deadpan licking, picking, chomping and slurping, as well as his slightly lascivious but ultimately goodwilled efforts to bring peace to the warring parties is a tour de force of perfectly timed comic acting. He arranges a marriage between Toffolo and Libera's youngest sister, Checcha (Olga Rodina), as much for the libidinous charge it gives him as for anything else.

Also a standout is Siyatvinda as the muddle-mouthed Fortunato. The actor is a buzz saw on the loose, both in the sounds he makes and in the physical comedy he cuts. Leaping and tumbling and staring in big-eyed amazement at the havoc wrought by the women who rule his life, he epitomizes the Raikin style: a mixture of boldness, speed and intricate detail.

Boris Valuyev's set, with excellent lighting by Anatoly Kuznetsov, transforms easily from a port-side street to a fishing boat to a judge's chamber. All that is needed is for a few booms or prop men to carry in or out a few key details. Maria Danilova's costumes are stylishly ragged, as befits the attire of poor fishermen and their families.

In "The Chioggian Squabbles" Raikin has brought out several actors who have been relegated to secondary roles in other shows at the Satirikon. And he has shown once again that he has a rare gift for inspiring others with his own power and talent.

"The Chioggian Squabbles" (Kodzhinskiye perepalki) plays Sept. 16, 19, 25 and 28 at 7 p.m. at the Satirikon Theater, 8 Sheremetyevskaya Ulitsa. Tel. 289-7844. Running time: 3 hours, 10 mins.