“Crime is a fine thing, both in history and in poetry, both on canvas and in marble,” wrote the cheerfully perverse Diderot. (The crime he was referring to was Christianity.) And likewise on the stage, one might think, in anticipation of the Soviet émigré director Yuri Lyubimov’s production of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, which played at Washington’s Arena Stage theater this winter.[1]

Until his exile in 1984, Lyubimov’s artistic career in the USSR was an emblematic one, marked by those veerings between compliance with the regime and minute acts of rebellion which characterize the working life of the contemporary Soviet artist. Born in 1917, he served during World War II in an ensemble organized by Lavrenti Beria,...


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