And folks — the 2008-09 theater season is over. What that means is that it?s time to unveil the prestigious annual Moscow Times Theater Awards, the only prestigious theater awards I know of in this town that make any sense. True, I?m the one who picks them. In any case, for those who are interested, this is - gulp! — the
Trend of the Year: Let?s call this the honorary Sorrows of Young Werther citation. Teenagers, dropouts, summer
Sign of the Times: Shukshin?s Stories directed by Alvis Hermanis at the Theater of Nations. Slick, professional, light, cute and endlessly crowd pleasing. This was the hit of the season with spectators who, in a lusty roar of cheers, drowned out my feeble desire for a bit more substance.
Talk Is Not Cheap: TV
Magnificent Monologue: Polina Kutepova in Yevgeny Kamenkovich?s dramatization of James Joyce?s Ulysses at the Fomenko Studio. The
Silent Man: Alexander Porokhovshchikov in Roman Kozak?s production of Biljana Srbljanovic?s Locusts at the Pushkin Theater. Saying just a few words throughout the entire show, this astonishing performer proved again that great acting is all about presence, having something to say and finding ways of doing that through the eyes, gestures and, sometimes, by just being there. I?ve never seen anyone do more with less than Porokhovshchikov did here.
Fearless Woman: Yelena Koreneva in Andrii Zholdak?s production of Moscow. Psycho at the Contemporary Play School. This show irritated many with its loud, crass take on pop culture wreaking havoc on modern life. I loved it and thought that Yelena Koreneva was superb as the
Best New Play: Trash by Mikhail Durnenkov at the Playwright and Director Center. This exploration of a writer trying to make sense of the world he inhabits is fragmented, obscure and challenging. It is also a sensitive, insightful portrayal of people trying to measure up to the daunting task of being human in the
Best Production: „Opus No. 7” directed by Dmitry Krymov, with music by Alexander Bakshi and Dmitry Shostakovich, at the School of Dramatic Art. This breathtaking work of images and sounds was theater like no one else makes it. In two acts, Krymov took on the extermination of the Jews in Eastern Europe by the Nazis and the nightmare that Shostakovich lived under the yoke of Soviet cultural bureaucrats. But the kicker was this: The show was beautiful, inventive and inspiring.
Master Teacher: Konstantin Raikin at the Satirikon Theater. Raikin actually joined a student cast in Alexander Ostrovsky?s Life Is No Bed of Roses in order to give them real experience in how this acting thing is done. As director of Carlo Gozzi?s The Blue Monster, he turned his main stage over to a large cast of unknowns and had them flying, flipping and leaping as well as emoting at the necessary moments. Raikin continues to be one of the architects of Moscow theater?s future.
New Kid on the Block: Marat Gatsalov. This young director coaxed veracity, intensity and plenty of cool nonchalance from his actors in Trash and Life Is Grand (co-directed with Mikhail Ugarov).
Quiet Excellence: Kirill Pirogov in Pyotr Fomenko?s production of Yuly Kim?s Shakespeare adaptation, The Tale of Arden Forest, at the Fomenko Studio. Pirogov appeared to be doing nothing at all as he played the mysterious,
Unexpected Debutante: A star actor for
Small is Big: Sergei Zhenovach opened the new small stage at his Studio of Theatrical Art with one of the season?s biggest successes — an exquisite dramatization of Andrei Platonov?s story, The River Potudan. This beautiful, unsettling and achingly intimate work tackled nothing less than the fragility and tenaciousness of love, one of our favorite topics.
Hot Property: Pavel Pryazhko had progressive theaters scrambling to stage his plays Life is Grand (at Praktika and a joint production at the Playwright and Director Center and Teatr.doc) and The Third Period (Joseph Beuys Theater at Fabrika). For the reasons why, see Trend of the Year.
Otherworldly Actress: Anastasia Marchuk in Natalya Moshina?s Pulya at the Playwright and Director Center. Marchuk?s Pulya, a girl struggling to grow up in a confusing world, began as a fetus, transformed into a sexually
mature adult and brought us glimpses from the afterlife — all in the course of 90 minutes. She did it with a sensitivity and vulnerability that made her character irresistible.
Impossible Hero: Roman Kirillov as the Nazi playwright in Mel Brooks? The Producers at the Et Cetera Theater. I never thought of Fascist and huggable in the same breath before seeing this crazy performance that would have had Freud panting like Pavlov?s dog.
Inspired Pas de Trois: Choreographer/Director Alla Sigalova, actress Chulpan Khamatova and dancer Andrei Merkuryev in Poor Liza at the Theater of Nations. This hybrid work mixing dance, drama, an
Divine Magicians: The
John Freedman will return at the end of August but will continue to write his blog on The Moscow Times web site.