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. Last Updated: 01/24/2015
Articles by John Freedman

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Using Cabaret to Take Satirical, Sly Look at WWI

Cabarets and war are more similar than you might think. One raises serious issues by way of mirth, the other is just deadly serious.

Lyubimovka Drama 'Emptiness' on at Meyerhold

Who are we? And why are we what we are? These are questions people ask not only after Russia's marathon New Year and Christmas holidays, a time when any unsuspecting individual might believe that he or she has stepped into the Twilight Zone and will never, ever get out again.

Teatr.doc Gets New Plays Ready While Pushed Out of Home Theater

Goodbye, Teatr.doc. Hello, Teatr.doc. Both statements are true. Which one suits your purposes at any given moment depends on what you are talking about.

Korolyov's 'Formalin' Puts Literature Back on Stage

A little over 13 years ago an often violent and seemingly coarse play called "Plasticine" — written by Vasily Sigarev — burst onto the scene and gave contemporary drama a huge shot in the arm. Suddenly everyone was talking about the "uncouth" Sigarev and his young, soon-to-be streetwise anti-heroes.

The Satirikon Reworks 'The Taming of the Shrew'

There is good reason to flaunt the capabilities of the company at the Satirikon Theater, one of the most powerful, agile, accomplished groups of actors anywhere.

National Youth Theater Takes on 'Nuremberg'

More than any large, established theater in Moscow, the National Youth Theater has accepted the challenge in recent years of taking stock of history.

Director Kama Ginkas Takes On Albee Classic

Chances are if you know the art of Kama Ginkas you would not automatically think about Edward Albee. Just as you might be excused for not thinking about Ginkas when hearing the title "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Mukhina Returns to Fomenko With 'Olympia'

As much as one might have wished, Olga Mukhina's long-awaited return to the Fomenko Studio with her new play "Olympia" is not quite the stuff of fairy tales.

Take a Vacation to Crimea at Embattled Teatr.doc

To be or not to be, that is the question these days for Teatr.doc.

Bogomolov Revamps Pushkin's 'Boris Godunov'

In "Boris Godunov" at the Lenkom Theater, director Konstantin Bogomolov somehow found a way to do what probably should have been impossible. He combined his trademark penchant for kitschy excess with a sense of deep and considered understatement.

Yukhananov Transforms Stanislavsky for 2015

Mark your calendar: Jan. 26, 2015. Something big is brewing. On that date the theater we have long called the Stanislavsky Drama Theater, just up Tverskaya Ulitsa from Pushkin Square, will be rechristened the Stanislavsky Electrotheater.

Visceral Show of Babel's 'Red Cavalry' Hits Home

Isaac Babel is one of the most enigmatic writers not only of the early Soviet era, but in all of Russian literature. He wrote plenty to be included among the greats, but the truth is that most of his important works fit into two volumes. There is a very complete four-volume collection available.

Uproar as City Threatens to Shut Down Teatr.doc

Yelena Gremina, having just informed the world that her mighty little Teatr.doc was in danger of being evicted from its famous basement in the center of Moscow, added a second post on her Facebook timeline.

Serebrennikov's 'Martyr' Sends Powerful Message

It sounds more like a play that would suit the United States these days, with its story of radical, fundamentalist Christianity pulling a school apart.

Memories of Lyubimov and Meyerhold at Theater Director's Funeral

Yury Lyubimov once told me about meeting the great director Vsevolod Meyerhold. This happened in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1987. I paid Lyubimov a visit to talk about his old friend, the playwright Nikolai Erdman, but the conversation, naturally and fortunately, took plenty of detours.

Taking a Theatrical Tour of Old and New Sretenka

It's a wonderful idea for reopening a renovated old building, to work out some of the demons and explore some of the angels still lingering in the dark corners.

Legendary Russian Theater Director Yury Lyubimov Dies at 97

Yury Lyubimov, who died late Sunday morning at the age of 97, was a man of and for his times.

Gogol Center Puts Vintage Soviet Films on Stage

The Gogol Center has done a fascinating thing over the last two seasons. It delved into some of Russia's shared cultural codes and came up with new views of old ideas.

Solzhenitsyn Spat Sees Mironov Attack Putin Ally

A Literaturnaya Gazeta critic's attack on Alexander Solzhenitsyn causes a war of words as Solzhenitsyn's widow comes to his defense.

Coupling, Uncoupling Told With Grace and Flair

Love as death, death as love. No, Timofei Kulyabin's production of "#shakespearessonnets" at the Theater of Nations is not a satire. Although some of the humor is so dry it puckers.

From a Park Reader to Chervikus Knigus and Putin

I swear it's not my fault. I just went for a walk and happened to see a nice image come into my camera's viewfinder. I took the picture of a woman in a park reading a book next to an outdoor library and I got to thinking: books, literature, Russia.

Topsy-Turvy World in Krymov's Take on Ostrovsky

A rough play for rough times. Dmitry Krymov staged Alexander Ostrovsky's old "Late Love" at the School of Dramatic Art and turned it into a bitter, devastating exposé of the world around him.

New Theater Season Focuses on Old, Not New

Well, there's one good thing. A check of shows opening in the first weeks of the coming theater season reveals not a single old Anton Chekhov play. But if you think that means Moscow's theaters have set their sights on contemporary topics, think again.

Lyubimovka Marks Real Start of Theater Season

It's not quite true that the Lyubimovka play festival is the first real event of each theater season in Moscow. This year, for example, some 10 top venues, including the Moscow Art Theater, the Mayakovsky and the Gogol Center, are already up and running.

The Winners of the 22nd Moscow Times Theater Awards

What a year. Drama. Histrionics. Villainy. Hubris. Intrigue. Tragedy. And I haven't even begun considering the 2013-2014 theater season.

New Era Looms After Golden Age of 'New Drama'

It has been an astonishing run. But doesn't every run come to an end?

Art World Expats Mull Russia's Future as Tensions Rise

Foreigners working in the cultural community speak to Moscow Times theater critic John Freedman about life in the city today.

Director Volkostrelov Brings 'Slice of Life' to Stage

It struck me as a sign from above. I was waiting for Dmitry Volkostrelov in a Moscow coffee shop and a television was showing a story about the Spanish painter Antonio Lopez Garcia, whom a crawler text identified as "one of the greatest realists" of the 20th century.

The Nightmare of Being a Russian-Language Ukrainian Playwright

"I don't know what to do about it, John. It is a nightmare and it is hell. And something in me has been broken irreparably."

Raikin Puts Post-Soviet Spin on Wesker’s Kitchen

Arnold Wesker’s “The Kitchen,” written in 1957, is something of a poetic cry of the soul. It fairly seems to scream, “Why can’t people get along?!” And that is precisely the message that Konstantin Raikin hammers on at length in his sparkling, swift-moving production of the play at the Satirikon Theater.
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