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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016


One of the final entries in the Theater Square festival, which concluded Monday with the Theater na Pokrovke's performance of "Three Sisters," was Andrei Lyubimov's production of "Apropos of Wet Snow" for the ApARTe Theater. Subtitled as a "monologue for three," this dramatization of the second half of Fyodor Dostoevsky's "Notes from the Underground" softens one of the writer's bleakest, most feverish works.

This approach had its good and bad points.

On the positive side is the gentle, almost apologetic, humor that the actor Alexander Orlovsky brought to the Underground Man, Dostoevsky's unnamed narrator. Lyubimov justified this approach by moving the novella's famous first words - "I am a sick man. I am a spiteful man" - to the end of the performance. By then, instead of a provocation, the words had become a sign of the character's sad resignation that he does not fit into the world.

Using a white screen, a spring mattress and numerous teapots, designer Olga Kulagina created a clean, uncluttered set that was attractive and practical.

In addition to Orlovsky's endearing Underground Man were a He and a She. Dmitry Dezhin handled the duties of the arrogant servant Apollon, the hostile acquaintance Zverkov and other males, while Maria Kozlova played the prostitute Liza and functioned as an unseen force on stage.

But "Wet Snow" never escaped the limits of literary theater. Although Lyubimov brought his actors into physical contact, the characters did not so much interact as trade lines, as relay runners might pass batons. I felt the actors were merely telling me Dostoevsky's story, rather than bringing it to life through action.

This was especially true of the performance's second half, focusing on the Underground Man's seduction and rejection of Liza. Lyubimov shifted the novella's dynamics and deprived it of a crucial conflict by excising most of Liza's text. This left her to utter occasional monosyllabic responses while the Underground Man carried on at length.

- John Freedman