Moscow theater plans play about author of `Doctor Zhivago'. Theater director sees loosening of ideological constraints on the arts

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

One of Moscow's most famous theaters, the Taganka, is planning to bring a play about Boris Pasternak and his novel ``Doctor Zhivago'' to the Soviet stage, the theater's new principal director said yesterday. The novel, published abroad in 1957 but suppressed here, is due to be printed in the Soviet Union for the first time next year. After ``Doctor Zhivago'' appeared, Pasternak was expelled from the Soviet Writers' Union and pressured into renouncing the 1958 Nobel Prize.

Stressing that the idea was still in its early stages, director Nikolai Gubenko said that the Taganka's play would probably concentrate on Pasternak's condemnation by the Writers' Union. Though best known in the West for ``Doctor Zhivago,'' Pasternak is remembered here as a great poet and an outstanding translator of foreign literature.

Much of the novel was clearly autobiographical, Mr. Gubenko noted yesterday at a small press conference to announce a forthcoming tour to Italy.

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Gubenko believes that his relationship with the Kremlin will be less stormy than that of his predecessor, Yuri Lyubimov. Theater staff said that under the present Soviet leadership they have almost complete latitude in deciding what plays to stage. The only limitations, Gubenko said, are on ``pornography and counterrevolution,'' though he agreed with journalists that these themes could be generously or tightly interpreted. But Gubenko described the present staff of the Communist Party's Culture Department as ``thinking'' people, several of whom are writers or poets.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has expressed admiration for Mr. Lyubimov, who defected to the West in 1983 after 19 years as the Taganka's chief director, complaining of the lack of artistic freedom here. There have been recent reports that Moscow has been trying discreetly to encourage Lyubimov to return. But the director seems to have burned his bridges by signing a strongly critical open letter to Mr. Gorbachev from Soviet 'emigr'es, published in March both in the West and the Soviet Union.

As Gubenko and other members of the Taganka troupe discussed their plans for the theater and their feelings about Lyubimov, however, it seemed that they no longer expected him to return. Gubenko confirmed that private attempts had been made to contact the former director. He added that during his own frequent trips to the West recently he had let Lyubimov know where he was. The former Taganka director did not try to contact him, he said.

``We love him the way he was here and regret he is not with us,'' said Gubenko, once a leading actor under Lyubimov and more recently a film director.

Gubenko's appointment to the theater signals a return to Lyubimov's sharp social criticism.

Some of Lyubimov's productions, such as the profoundly anti-Stalinist ``House on the Embankment,'' by Yuri Trifonov, have been restored to the repertoire - reportedly at Gorbachev's urging. The play has become one of the theater's most popular pieces. Gubenko said that other Lyubimov productions, such as Mikhail Bulgakov's ``The Master and Margarita,'' will soon return.

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