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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

MARQUEE: Williams Play Works Well

Except for "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and, perhaps, "The Glass Menagerie," I am not a big admirer of the Tennessee Williams canon. In fact I can be quite shortsighted when it comes to watching American plays in general being staged in Russia. All those swaggering-bucks-in-cowboy-hats- no-matter-what-the-play-is can make me a downright sullen spectator.

What a pleasant surprise, then, to see Sergei Steblyuk's fine handling of one of Williams' miniatures. Known in English as "The Two-Character Play," this independent production is titled "Garden Locked -- Sister Mine" at the Bulgarian Cultural Center where it plays rarely.

If the new title is unnecessarily overblown, the same should not be said of the performance. This is an incisive, moving version of Williams' aggressively illusionary play about a brother-and-sister acting team who are abandoned by their troupe and left to face an audience alone. What we see may be them acting out a play or their own reminiscences about the aftermath of a traumatic episode -- the murder of both parents.

Steblyuk provided the ideal atmosphere for the challenging play: simplicity and clarity. That is also true of the razor-sharp acting of Lyudmila Odiyankova as Clare and Andrei Nevrayev as her brother Felice, as well as of Igor Kapitanov's set. It turns an elegant, marble-walled ballroom into an effective theatrical space with a table, some chairs and lamps.

Odiyankova gives an alternately humorous and powerful performance of the woman barely maintaining psychological stability as she is jolted by her fears of the stage, of failure, of open spaces and of secrets from her past. The actress is riveting as she effortlessly slips back and forth between moments of smiling calm and bursts of anger or alarm.

Steblyuk's textural lighting and use of music -- edgy themes developing slowly before breaking off into silence -- establish the anxious mood. Forget his arbitrary decision to darken Williams' conciliatory ending; by then, this show is too good to spoil.

"Garden Locked -- Sister Mine" (Zaperty sad -- sestra moya) plays Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Bulgarian Cultural Center, 20 Leningradsky Prospekt. M. Belorusskaya. Tel. 250-0683. Running time: 2 hours.