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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Theater Buffs Look Forward to a Packed Season




I am better at hindsight than at foresight, but here it goes anyway, my big prediction. While the politicians will make mincemeat of good sense and good citizens will be hunting everywhere for those elusive rubles and a few stray dollars, there will still be a theater season, and it will be a good one.


There may be a few changes in planned schedules, but I'll stake the curls on my head that, come next July, I'll be writing a review of a packed season. For the time being, here's a rundown of what we should be seeing in the near future.


Seldom are so many big names set so early to unveil new projects. During the next two months, we should see shows directed by Kama Ginkas, Valery Fokin, Robert Sturua, Sergei Artsibashev and Yury Pogrebnichko. Also in that period, specifically on Oct. 26, falls the big celebration honoring the 100th anniversary of the world-famous Moscow Art Theater.


Further down the road, we can look forward to Yury Lyubimov's latest at the Taganka Theater. There, already firmly plugged into a Dec. 11 premiere date, Lyubimov will reveal "Sharashka," his dramatization of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's novel, "The First Circle." It will coincide with the Nobel Prize-winning author's 80th birthday.


First up is a show that has strong historical ties to Lyubimov and the Taganka. Back when he was a young actor and apprentice director, Sergei Artsibashev staged his first show at Lyubimov's theater in 1980. It was called "The Little Orchestra of Hope" and it combined three short plays by Alexander Volodin, Semyon Zlotnikov and Lyudmila Petrushevskaya.


Now, after 18 years, Artsibashev has gone back to the piece and resurrected it in a new context for a contemporary audience. The 1998 version opened Tuesday at Artsibashev's Theater Na Pokrovke and, like every other show discussed in this article, it will be in repertory from here on out.


Another September premiere also involves a Taganka Theater alumnus. Yury Pogrebnichko, for the last 10 years the artistic director at what is now called the Theater Near the Stanislavsky House, honed his talents under Lyubimov in the late '70s and early '80s. Since returning to Moscow in the late '80s after a short hiatus, he has evolved a unique, minimalist style whose deep irony and dense symbolism make him unlike any other director around. Pogrebnichko will apply his unique method to a little-known Tennessee Williams one-act play, "Portrait of Madonna." It opens at the Theater Near the Stanislavsky House on Sept. 12.


One of last season's most curious aberrations was the light-handed fascination with largely forgotten Russian plays of the 18th century. That interest seems not to have abated, as on Sept. 19 the Mossoviet Theater draws back the curtain on a new interpretation of Denis Fonvizin's 1782 comedy, "The Minor." As directed by Boris Shchedrin, this edifying tale about a silly dolt who almost gets pawned off in marriage to a virtuous girl will be titled "The Mitrofan Passion" and it will be, of all things, a musical created by Yuly Kim and Vladimir Dashkevich.


At the Tabakov Theater, Andrei Zhitinkin has prepared a dramatization of Thomas Mann's unfinished novel, "Confessions of Felix Krull: Confidence Man." This picaresque tale, about a charming young man who shirks his duties and responsibilities until he winds up in jail where he has the time to write his memoirs, will star Sergei Bezrukov. He is the voice behind Yeltsin in the Kukly television program. The show opens at the Tabakov Theater's small stage on Sept. 25.


Throughout September, numerous new shows will begin playing again after having had a handful of semi-public previews in June or July. These include Peter Shaffer's "Dark Comedy" (under the title of "Comedy in a Dark Room") at the Pushkin Theater and "A Plague o' Both Your Houses" at the Mayakovsky Theater. This production is the most recent of Grigory Gorin's Russian reshufflings of foreign classics. In this case, the play is Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet."


Of those shows that opened for an eye blink at the end of last season and then closed for the summer, the most important is certainly Ivan Savelyev's "Journeys on the Edge" at the Satire Theater. This play, written several years ago, was one of the most acclaimed in recent years, although it took until June for someone -- namely Alexander Kalinin -- to stage it. I found the play did not entirely stand up to the praise that had been heaped on it, and I thought the production came in a cut under that. But still, this show, which resumes performances Sept. 8, is sure to be one of the most discussed over the next month or two.


October will see several heavyweights weighing in. First in line will be the great Georgian director Robert Sturua. Sturua has long been the artistic director of the Rustaveli Theater in Tbilisi and that is where he has established himself as one of the world's top directors. But he also works on rare occasion in Moscow, and this year we will be privileged to see his interpretation of "Hamlet" starring Konstantin Raikin at the Satirikon Theater. Sturua's trademarks are power and passion, so his hooking up with Shakespeare and Raikin, one of Moscow's finest actors, sounds like a m?nage ? trois made in heaven. "Hamlet" is slated to premiere Oct. 2.


The Theater Yunogo Zritelya will have two major surprises for us in October. It will open new shows by a pair of Moscow's foremost directors, Kama Ginkas and Valery Fokin.


Ginkas, whose 1994 production of "K.I. from 'Crime'" continues to play Moscow and tour the world with great success, has not done a show locally since his equally harrowing and hilarious "The Execution of the Decembrists" in 1995. This is due primarily to engagements abroad and a heart attack that put everything on hold about a year ago. But now he's back with what promises to be a characteristically unorthodox handling of Alexander Pushkin's verse tale "T?he Golden Cockerel." Ginkas is notoriously secretive about work in progress, so little information has leaked out about the show other than that the action is set on a stairwell.


Fokin's show for the Theater Yunogo Zritelya, "Tatyana Repina," had its world premiere this summer at the Avignon Festival. It is based in part on a dialogue that was written in jest by Anton Chekhov in 1889 and had never before been performed. The title role of a 19th-century provincial actress is played partly in French, partly in Russian by the French actress Consuelo de Haviland. De Haviland will travel to Moscow periodically from her home in Paris for isolated blocks of performances.


The 100th birthday bash honoring the Moscow Art Theater on Oct. 26 will take place at the Chekhov Art Theater on Kamergersky Pereulok. This is the more stable and stageworthy half of the theater after it split into competing factions -- the Chekhov and the Gorky Art Theaters -- more than a decade ago.


And this is just the beginning. Up ahead we have 10-plus months of 75-plus theaters doing their best to keep us occupied and interested. I, for one, can't wait to get going.