The Russian playwright Alexander Ostrovsky (1823-1886) loved actors, who figure as characters in any number of his plays. A sort of businessman scribbler from the upper middle class (his father was a wealthy lawyer), he was uniquely positioned to pour into his plays the whole fluctuating life of St. Petersburg's rising bourgeoisie during the era of chaotic change that has the freeing of Russia's serfs (1861) as its midpoint. Theater junkie that he was, however, Ostrovsky couldn't resist embodying the life around him in scripts tailored to the stagiest stage conventions of his time. Actor-friendly and garlanded with portraits of actor types, his writing is also full of actorish excesses, rants and repetitions and sidetracks that clutter the drama, weakening its focus and diluting its power. Though his best scenes infallibly grip you (Chekhov learned a good deal from his work), his writing too often resembles vodka-fueled Russian conversation, its meanderings always ready to sink into sentimentality or flare up into pointless argument. Unsurprisingly, he's less well known in the West than any other major... More >>>