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Updated Up To 18/01/2017
Volume 10, Issue 1 (January 2012) : 49-75
The Dybbuk through the Eyes of Habima’s Rival Studio

Helen Tolstoy
Rubric A: Episodes in the History of Ideas
Rubric B: Russian Literature



The Dybbuk, written by An-sky in Russian, triumphantly staged by Vakhtangov in Hebrew (Moscow, 1922), subsequently a seminal work of the Israeli national theater, often attracted harsh criticism and was a subject of many controversies. While under fire from Jewish Communists for its choice of “bourgeois” Hebrew rather than “proletarian” Yiddish Habima became a cult with the Russian intellectual audience not only  out of reverence for the language of the Bible but also  in the face of the Bolshevik persecutions of religion. It was natural for the artistic public to feel solidarity with the spiritual drama on the stage, made universal by the genius of Vakhtangov — given that was the only place in Moscow where one spoke of the spirit at all. And yet it was not without reservations that the play was received by fellow actors and directors. One piece of evidence to this is a parody review that originated in Moscow Art Theater’s First Studio. This paper is an attempt to interpret the review and explain what in the  production of The Dybbuk could irritate fellow Russian artists.

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