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Russian Staging of Oscar Wilde Play Probed by Police After Blasphemy Allegations

Local Orthodox church figures say a production of "An Ideal Husband" is profane.

MOSCOW -- Russian police have opened a probe into a play based on Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband staged by Moscow's MKhT theater, which the Russian Orthodox church slammed as "blasphemous."

The probe into Idealny Muzh. Komediya (An Ideal Husband. A Comedy), written and directed by Konstantin Bogomolov, was opened in response to complaints by four private individuals questioning whether the play is in compliance with the law, the Russian wire service Interfax reported.

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The police would not disclose the names of the complainants. However, the Russian Orthodox church earlier criticized the performance.

"From my point of view, [the performance] contained the profanation of the crucifix symbol, as an almost totally naked woman imitated it," Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin was quoted as saying by Interfax.

In late November, a performance of the play was disrupted by Orthodox activists, who went onstage shouting blasphemy accusations.

Meanwhile, actors involved in the play have shrugged off the accusations of insulting religious feelings.

"If creative issues are to be decided by the police, that will be a real insult to Christianity," actor Maxim Matveyev said in a statement on the theater's Facebook page.

"I am a religious person and I play a crook, Father Artemy," added the actor. "He isn't really a priest, he is a petty demon, a contemptible Mephistopheles, which is clear from the context of the play."