By VLADIMIR ZAYTSEV
Translated and adapted by TATYANA KHAIKIN
and ROBERT DUFFLEY
Directed by Alexander Gelman
Produced by Organic Theater Company
At the Greenhouse Theater, Chicago
Shockingly honest gay coming out story defines Russian homophobia
The press notes state: “One year ago, this controversial play about a gay teen coming out stunned audiences in Moscow, leading to warnings of shutdowns, bomb threats, and a government investigation for “Gay Propaganda.”
Having a translation of a contemporary Russian play is unusual, as is a Moscow production of a”gay” play in a country as homophobic as Putin’s Russia. Kudos to the folks at Organic Theater Company for mounting this amazing play.
Playwright VLADIMIR ZAYTSEV’s work, translated by Tatyana Khaikin and Robert Duffley, is a mixed piece that contains a humorous coming-out narrative by a sixteen year old Russian Boy (played with total honesty by Will Burdin). His narrative of how he discovered that he was gay was funny, truthful, and heart-warming. We see that Boy really tried to fit in by dating girls. Only after he gave girls a try did he realize that they did nothing for him. When he meet the buff swimmer Andrey (the winning Adam Zaininger), he realized that his sexual attraction was, indeed, for boys. Andrey showed Boy the ropes of gay sex and strongly advised him to NEVER tell anyone, especially his parents, about his desires while living in repressive Russia.
Andrey’s survival tactics seemed not to fit Boy’s bent for honesty and full social acceptance. Boy naively thought both his fellow students and his parents would accept his lifestyle. But his parents, especially his macho military officer father (Bryan Wakefield), couldn’t accept Boy being gay. We see the conflict as the parents fertile attempts to “change” Boy as funny, at first, but as the parents grow more desperate, their methods to deal with Boy’s “problem” became extreme. Act one ends with a conman doing an exorcism instigated by Babushka (grandmother) (Juliane Sullivan).
At the intermission, I admired this honest, often funny, coming-out story and I realized that it is truthful, yet dated for American audiences. But the explanation of how a person realizes that he is attracted to another guy was honest demonstrating that genes determine such things, not personal choice.
In act two, we see how much the parents try to “convert” Boy by setting him up with a hooker and ultimately sending him to a medical clinic for addicts to drug him into submission. This act is scary, as we see how Russia is destroying youthful gay boys. We see, one again, how parents don’t really love their children if they put limits on that love. Love is unconditional or it isn’t love. Period.
Date Reviewed: May 30, 2016
For more info checkout the Out Of The Blue page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL, tickets $25, for schedule checkout https://www.greenhousetheater.org/#!out-of-the-blue/kozbp