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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cutting-Edge Theater Goes Clubbing




A puff of smoke escapes from the left eye socket of the cow's skull.


Within seconds, another puff - now from the right eye. Then, another. And another.


When a man emerges from under the oversized mask, he turns to his companion. "So, don't you think the grass is good enough?" he asks, between drags on his suspiciously long, thin cigarette.


And the public erupts in laughter - not exactly the reaction playwright Maxim Kurochkin expected when he sat down to write a play about cattle feed problems in major modern cities.


"It has nothing to with the drug-addicted reality," the 29-year-old up-and-coming playwright said. Indeed, the play is about the daily life of the Huns who wandered the Russian steppe in the Middle Ages, and the reference to "grass" has nothing to do with the popular narcotic.


But forgive them their laughter - this audience, with whom Kurochkin's scene was an immediate hit, is a far cry from the traditional theater-going public. They are goateed, nose-ringed, platform-shoed, plaid-pantsed 20-somethings and they gathered at the Gramophone club Tuesday for "The Night of Falling Walls," the first in a series of events to mark the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.


"In the beginning, I wanted to hide so that no one would see me," Natalya Kommissarova, director of special projects at the Golden Mask theater festival, one of the event's organizers, said of the unorthodox public and venue. "Early in the evening, it seemed to me that the night was going to be a total failure, but it turned out to be a little triumph."


Kurochkin, however, was convinced from the outset that Gramophone's unconventional "stage" would be a hit. "This is a real theater," he said. "It's much more fun to entertain people when they aren't locked in their seats. In a normal theater, people might as well be in cages. ... This way, if they lose interest, they can leave."


Actors performed five sketches Tuesday, each by a different young Russian playwright (with the exception of "Shopping and Fucking") - all of whom are considered "ones to watch" on the Moscow theater scene - in varying corners of Gramophone's smoke-filled interior, to the deafening tune of electronic dance hits. The first sketch, taken from the much-talked-about "Shopping and Fucking," was a gay love scene that brought complaints from a few audience members when the couple shared a rather sterile kiss.


Other sketches were staged on a platform in front of the club's bathrooms and hanging onto scaffolding on the club's walls.


Each sketch - "Moskausee" (The Moscow Lake) by Andrei Vishnevsky, "Glaz" (The Eye) by Kurochkin, "Tsena u Fontana" (The Fountain Scene) by Yekaterina Shagalova and "Vorona Rossiskoi Imperii" (The Crow of the Russian Empire) by Yekaterina Narshi - shared a similar theme: the city of Moscow. In "Moskausee," the city is flooded by order of Adolf Hitler. In "The Fountain Scene," two psychopaths plan a date in the city.


"The Night of Falling Walls" is a part of the Open City Moscow project, which will host another similar evening of new theater on Nov. 17. The project will feature 13 more playwrights, including Yevgeny Grishkovets, who writes and stages his own one-man plays; Kseniya Dragunskaya, who wrote three plays staged in Moscow last year; and Alexander Rodionov, who translated "Shopping and Fucking" into Russian.


"The Seminar" will be held Nov. 17 at 10 p.m. at the Young Actor Theater at 8 Malaya Dmitrovka. Metro Pushkinskaya. Tickets cost 70 rubles. For more information on this and other performances at Gramophone, call 229-9242.