An anthology of plays from the Crooked Mirror, the leading Russian cabaret of the Silver Age
“Don’t blame the mirror if your mug is crooked!”
Parody dominated early twentieth-century Russian cabaret, but the Crooked Mirror extended its lampooning to theatrical practice itself. Eclectic in its targets, the Saint Petersburg theater mocked not only naturalism but also symbolism, futurism, and “Meyerholditis.” Its shows parodied both the stale conventions of melodrama and opera and the stylized trends in staging, wielding satire to provoke artistic and social reform. Though the theater was liquidated in 1931, many of its innovations would become standard techniques in cabaret repertoires and improv revues.
As a cultural phenomenon of the Silver Age, the Crooked Mirror deserves critical attention, yet it has received only fleeting mention in histories of Russian theater and biographies of its major figures. This anthology fills a critical gap in our understanding of that heady era by bringing together key plays—most appearing in English here for the first time—together with short biographies of their authors and robust commentary and annotations. Laurence Senelick guides readers through the artistic and ideological evolution of the Crooked Mirror and provides performers with the material to bring its innovations back to the stage.