Since 1989 the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Theater of Moscow South-West have taken part in an exchange program: every year or so UIC sends a number of student-actors to Russia, and every year or so the Moscow-based company sends a couple of its productions over here. Several years ago the Theatre of Moscow South-West brought a pair of Gogol plays, one a black comedy called The Gamblers, the other considerably lighter in tone, Marriage. Both were intense, rich, visually stimulating productions: Russian director Valery Beliakovich and his performers transformed these works, and on a subshoestring budget, the cast constructing sets and costumes on the spot using only a few pieces of wood and cloth and long sheets of black plastic. This year the Russians have returned with a pair of plays so dark they make the pessimistic The Gamblers seem light as helium: Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Beliakovich’s own adaptation of Bulgakov’s once-suppressed novel, now a cult favorite, The Master and Margarita. (The latter is sold out, though there may be turn-backs at the door; tickets are still available for the Scottish play.) I think we got the better part of this deal. The Master and Margarita opens Friday, March 22, 7 PM. Through March 24: Saturday, 7 PM; Sunday, 2 PM. $18. Macbeth opens Thursday, March 28, 7:30 PM. Through March 31: Friday-Saturday, 7:30 PM; Sunday, 2 PM. $18. University of Illinois at Chicago, UIC Theater, 1040 W. Harrison, 996-2939. $30 for both plays. –Jack Helbig