Russian ‘Hands’ waves goodbye

Local press backlash closes Pelevine's play

When dramatist Natalie Pelevine‘s “In Your Hands” was booked for a staging in the republic of Dagestan, she must have been surprised.

After all, the play centers on the infamous 2002 siege by Chechen terrorists of patrons at Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater, and had gotten the cold shoulder everywhere else in the country, which borders Chechnya.

But when the production was shut down on opening night, April 7, many wondered if the specter of the old Kremlin era had reared its head.

The 800-seat main theater in Makhachkala in which the play was booked closely resembles the setting of the real hostage crisis, an aspect that did not sit well with local officials in a republic that frequently suffers from outbreaks of violence and terrorist attacks of its own.

Dagestan president Mukhu Aliyev — a fierce Kremlin loyalist — was on hand for opening night, and when the curtain came down, Pelevine was told by officials there would be no more perfs.

“It was executed very much Soviet-style. Boom. Done. Tell them it’s over. Tell them it’s finished,” Pelevine told Reuters.

The playwright assumed the president had ordered it closed.

Not so, Aliyev said in remarks posted on his Russian-language website. “The banning of this play is either a provocation by someone or an ill-conceived decision by the republic (of Dagestan’s) minister of culture,” he said.

But when his remarks were put to culture ministry officials, they denied banning the play. And that denial was seized upon by director Skandarbek Tulparov as a signal to resume. He planned to reopen on April 12.

But the show did not go on. Thesps refused to take to the boards after a local press backlash left them fearful.

In its place, the rep theater staged Moliere’s farce “Dandin.”

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