Through Jan. 2

Stanislavsky Theater Studio at Church Street Theater

Tickets: 202/265-3748

The Stanislavsky Theater Studio merges drama, movement and mime in its brilliant, surreal adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot." So its set and costume designer was faced with a challenge: How to create a set that interacts with the actors, and how to dress actors who both speak and dance?

Fortunately for STS directors Andrei Malaev-Babel and Paata Tsikurishvili (who plays ultra-honorable Prince Myshkin, the "idiot" of the title) as well as audiences, the answer found his way to the area from Moscow, by way of Buenos Aires. Konstantin Tikhonov, former designer for the Moscow Art Theater, has created a dreamlike yet readily accessible world on the tiny Church Street Theater stage. It's draped in white tulle -- about 300 yards of it. The actors wear highly stylized costumes which, despite their simplicity, immediately bring to mind the 19th-century setting of the story: suits for the men, leg-o'-mutton sleeves and stiff bustles for the women, all of linen that Tikhonov painted in shades of grey and black.

The actors also strip down to simpler garb when they double as extras, taking on roles as street lamps, tables, furnace flames and even, in the stunning opening image, the oncoming headlights of a train.

"I was trying to find a texture that could explain the main idea of the production, which is the contrast between the beautiful soul of Myshkin and the ugly society that surrounds him," says Tikhonov, as Malaev-Babel translates. "If we were inside Myshkin's soul, this is how it would be."

Tikhonov has been named resident designer of the fledgling theater company. Look for his touch in the upcoming STS production of Neil Simon's "The Good Doctor" at Theater J.