Putin's Newest Gig: Savage Theater Critic

Russian prez mocks cast, upbraids director after play
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 12, 2008 9:35 AM CDT
Russian President Vladimir Putin, background, speaks with Moscow Sovremennik Theater actors and directors late Sunday, March 9, 2008, after watching the comedy "Woe from Wit" in theater, Moscow. Shown...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila caused a stir in Moscow last weekend when they paid an unannounced visit to the theater. After the audience gave him a standing ovation, Putin made a foray into theater criticism that stunned the cast. "Why did you show him crying?" asked the notoriously emotionless Putin of the lead actor's portrayal. "You showed him sniveling."

The director of the play quickly thanked Putin for the criticism, to which the president retorted, "The actor has nothing to do with this. He's done what you told him to." The 19th century Russian comedy, Woe From Wit, also includes a scene mocking Russians for blindly adopting Western customs, which Putin called "a particular lesson for the new members of the European Union." Amid laughter he added, "I'm joking, I'm joking."