Soviet press cracks down on theaters

An ideological crackdown on Moscow theaters may be coming, if a Communist Party newspaper commentary and reports of quieter official pressure on the city's most venturesome theater are any barometer.

News media calls for ideological purity in the arts are nothing new. And Soviet officials have not yet been available for comment on the particularly explicit and strident commentary on theater that appeared Feb. 5 in Moskovskaya Pravda, the organ of the Moscow Communist Party branch.

But the article is being taken seriously in Moscow culture circles, if only because it seems in line with reported official pressure on the city's most imaginative theater, the Taganka.

The press commentary suggested a new commitment to the Soviet artistic doctrine of ''socialist realism.'' The idea is that ideology, usually in the shape of a properly inspiring communist hero, should hold center stage.

On a more practical level, say reports circulating in Moscow theater circles, the authorities have asked the administrative chief of the city's Taganka theater to resign. The reports say he's thought to have failed to exert proper control over the troupe's flamboyant artistic director, Yuri Lyubimov. The issue is said to be in abeyance for the time being because the administrator has been ill.

The reported move against the Taganka follows repeated friction with the cultural powers-that-be over various Lyubimov productions.

The authorities' concern is presumably not that the Taganka is ''anti-Soviet.'' The theater is venturesome only by Moscow standards - generally as daring, in a Western context, as a typical university troupe.

But within these limits, the Taganka does hurl occasional barbs at Soviet life; and, in general, eschews the traditional communist hero. Mr. Lyubimov also has shown a stubborn determination to battle with cultural authorities over changes they require in particular productions.

The most recent skirmish involved a production of Pushkin's ''Boris Godunov.'' Theater sources say the authorities seemed to feel the Taganka's treatment of a much earlier Russian ''transition'' period would be read as comment on current Soviet politics. The play was nixed in rehearsal and has not been performed commercially.

The Moscow newspaper article singled out the Taganka and two other Moscow theaters in criticizing current productions of Anton Chekhov's ''Three Sisters.''

The newspaper said all three fell short of what Soviet drama should be: a vehicle of ''political education,'' for one thing.

In general, the newspaper suggested, the communist hero was faring poorly in Moscow theaters, while the ''antihero'' was having a field day:

''The 'antiheroes,' as a rule, are better drawn. They are more colorful and more prominent than their (ideologically) positive counterparts, which leads to a distortion in plays, and to seeming glorification of injustice and dishonesty over justice and law.''

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