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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tolstoy Lights Early Season Fireworks

The Moscow Art Theater turned 100 last season, London's Globe Theater turns 400 this year. Alexander Pushkin's 200th birthday was a major catalyst for new shows last season and Konstantin Raikin's 50th birthday will give us reason to celebrate in the year 2000. All of these players, and many more, will have an impact on the shape Moscow theater takes in the 1999-2000 season that is now getting under way.

The Chekhov Art Theater, following a rough centennial when three new shows closed before they opened, is determined to make up for that this year. Artistic director Oleg Yefremov shook off persistent summer rumors that he would retire and now appears set to lead the theater into the next century.

A trio of new productions are currently in rehearsal at the Art Theater with the first of them, Leo Tolstoy's "The Light Shines in the Darkness," set to premiere Oct. 5. Directed by Vyacheslav Dolgachyov, this play tells the story of an aristocrat whose unorthodox social views put him into conflict with his family.

Also in early October, the Art Theater expects to unveil Roman Kozak's production of Nikolai Yevreinov's semiclassic, "The Main Thing." This curious work was first staged in 1920 and subsequently enjoyed enviable success in the United States and Europe. It is a rather daring choice for a production at this playhouse since the play's tragicomic treatment of the line separating life and theater was originally intended in part as a parody of the "lifelike" style that Konstantin Stanislavsky cultivated at the Moscow Art Theater.

Also in rehearsal at the house that Stanislavsky built is a modern, minimalist adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" by the avant-garde director Klim. Only this time Klim weighs in as author, while young director Vladimir Berzin is tackling the job of staging the play.

Shortly after the premiere of Dolgachyov's production of "The Light That Shines in the Darkness," another rarely performed Tolstoy play will join it across town at the Hermitage Theater. Mikhail Levitin, who essentially took a sabbatical last year, will unveil his production of "The Living Corpse" in early October. This show, which will include Gypsy tangos and a supporting cast drawn from Gennady Abramov's Class of Expressive Body Movement, promises to demonstrate Levitin's trademark syncopated style.

For those interested in keeping track of anniversaries, note that each of Tolstoy's plays will achieve the grand age of 100 in the second half of the season. Both works were written in 1900.

At the Taganka Theater, Yury Lyubimov plans to mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Globe Theater with a show he has been talking of doing for many years. "Chronicles," which Lyubimov began rehearsing in June, will combine segments from four of Shakespeare's historical plays, "Richard II," "Richard III," "Henry IV" and "Henry VI." It will feature a set by the acclaimed Lithuanian designer Andris Freibergs, with costumes by his wife, Kristina Pasternak. A specific premiere date has not yet been set.

Lyubimov has also stated that his next project will be a dramatization of Mikhail Bulgakov's "Theatrical Novel," often called "Black Snow" in English.

The Pushkin bicentennial, which late last season generated numerous shows based on the life and works of Russia's greatest poet, will continue to bear fruit this season. The first of several such shows will be Vadim Dantsiger's handling of Pushkin's little trilogy under the title "Salieri Forever" at the Yermolova Theater-Center.

Dantsiger's productions of "Judith" and "A New Life" at the Playwright and Director Center last season focused attention on the work of this young director and "Salieri" is likely to do more of the same when it opens in the second half of September.

The big trio of Moscow's directors, Pyotr Fomenko, Valery Fokin and Kama Ginkas, all have shows scheduled to open in the near future.

Fomenko, for the first time since his acclaimed 1993 production of "Guilty Without Guilt," will be working with a cast of veteran actors in Maurice Maeterlinck's "The Miracle of Saint Anthony," at the Vakhtangov Theater. This play was first produced in Russia in 1906, three years after it was written. But it was Yevgeny Vakhtangov's production in 1921 that became one of the legendary works of 20th-century Russian theater. Fomenko's version, scheduled to open Sept. 17, would appear to be the first in Russia since that time.

At the Theater Yunogo Zritelya, Kama Ginkas will unveil his newest work, a dramatization of Anton Chekhov's "The Black Monk," on Oct. 6. Ginkas has frequently staged Chekhov abroad, but this will be his first treatment of this seminal writer in Moscow.

As is to be expected, Ginkas will have surprises in store. Much of the performance is expected to take place on the balcony of the auditorium, while the spectators will watch from below. For this show, Ginkas has invited the Vakhtangov Theater actor Sergei Makovetsky to perform the title role.

Valery Fokin is currently rehearsing Nikolai Kolyada's dramatization of Nikolai Gogol's story, "Old-World Landowners." Starring as the old-fashioned wife and husband will be Russia's Lia Akhedzhakova and Ukraine's Bogdan Stupka. This independent production, created in conjunction with the Ukrainian Cultural Center, is slated to open in December.

Also scheduled for December is the latest from Oleg Menshikov's own production company, the 814 Theater Association. After last season's poorly received production of Alexander Griboyedov's "Woe from Wit," Menshikov has gone back to an author who provided one of his most successful outings in the 1990s - Alexei Burykin.

Burykin's "Nijinsky" - which starred Menshikov and Alexander Feklistov in 1993 - remains one of the highlights of the decade. The new play, which does not yet have a title, is still in the final stages of being written and rehearsals are just now getting under way for the calendar year-end opener.

The Mossoviet Theater expects to unveil an unusual Tennessee Williams production in September. "Baby Doll," Williams' brilliant, underrated filmscript that was originally filmed in Hollywood in 1956, is being prepared for the stage by Pavel Khomsky and Sergei Vinogradov. In October, the Mossoviet will offer Alexei Kazantsev's newest play, "Brothers and Liza," under the direction of Yevgeny Lazarev.

In a few July previews at the Sovremennik Theater, Galina Volchek already provided a glimpse of her newest production, a dramatization of Erich Maria Remarque's World War I novel, "Three Comrades." This show starring the popular young actress Chulpan Khamatova is scheduled to open Oct. 1.

Aside from an excellent production of "The Lion in Winter," which opened early in the summer and will resume performances in October, the Satirikon Theater has two new shows planned for the season.

Yelena Nevezhina, who made her professional debut at the Satirikon two years ago with Milan Kundera's "Jacques and His Master," will return to the theater to stage Iris Murdoch's 1970 play, "Servants and the Snow."

To fill out the cast, the theater has invited Alexander Feklistov, a member of the Chekhov Art Theater, to take one of the leads. The show is expected to open in the winter.

Meanwhile, Satirikon artistic director Konstantin Raikin is already making plans for his 50th birthday party in June 2000. With Nevezhina again in the director's chair, Raikin will take on a work that would seem tailor made for his prodigious talents, Nikolai Gogol's classic short story, "The Diary of a Madman."

Among numerous other shows set to open in the near future, a few are of special note. The Tabakov Theater plans a theatrical version of the popular Hollywood movie "Sex, Lies and Videotape," while the Maly Theater plans a rare production of a contemporary play, albeit on a historical theme. Galina Turchina's play "Tsar Pyotr Fyodorovich" will play at the Maly's affiliate under the title of "The Chronicle of a Court Coup."