One of the best things about my omnivorous approach to nineteenth-century Russian literature is that I stumble on good things I would never have read otherwise. I almost passed up Gogol’s play «Игроки» [The Gamblers]; much as I love Gogol, I was put off by Mirsky’s description (“It is an unpleasant play, inhabited by scoundrels that are not funny, and, though the construction is neat, it is dry and lacks the richness of the true Gogol”) and by the fact that Nabokov says not a single word about it in his book on Gogol, not even bothering to call it “a rather slipshod comedy” as he does «Женитьба» [Marriage, or as Nabokov calls it, Getting Married]. But I sighed, thought “If I don’t read it now, I never will, and after all, it’s Gogol,” and gave it a try. It turns out it’s a wonderful play that simply fell through the cracks of Mirsky’s and Nabokov’s artistic sensibilities. It should, however, fit perfectly with the sensibilities of an age that appreciates, say, David Mamet. These days we don’t need uplifting or well-rounded characters in our drama — a well-turned, clever plot and punchy dialogue makes us happy. (And come on, there’s a deck of cards named Adelaida Ivanovna!) If you liked The Sting or The Usual Suspects, I bet you’ll like this play. (I know there are translations into English, but I don’t know if any of them are any good; there’s a 1927 one by Isaac Don Levine online, but a quick glance suggests it’s pretty creaky, though Levine does call the play “a masterpiece of dramatic suspense” at the end of his brief introduction.)
Addendum. Here is a filmed version of the play (in Russian); the actors are perfect for their parts.