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THEATER REVIEW: Out of the Blue
by Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times
2016-06-08

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Playwright: Vladimir Zaytsey;

Translation: Tatyana Khaikin and Robert Duffy

At: Organic Theater Company at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.

Tickets: 773-404-7336 or OrganicTheater.org; $20-$30

Runs through: July 10

( in repertory with The Good Doctor )

You've got to admire the bravery of Russian playwright Vladimir Zaytsey for penning the 2015 gay drama Out of the Blue. In its U.S. debut courtesy of Organic Theater Company, Out of the Blue does a defiant job in challenging draconian anti-gay Russian laws and attitudes.

That said, Out of the Blue is probably more interestingly viewed sociologically by American audiences as a piece of foreign protest art rather than fully being a universal coming-of-age story. Not all of the humor translates, and the piece could do with some judicious cutting to its running time.

But Out of the Blue clearly aims to change a lot of minds on the issue of homosexuality, and often it functions more on the level of a series of direct-address character lectures than a tragic drama.

Out of the Blue actually begins with plenty of humor as the protagonist "Boy" ( an endearing William Burdin ) shares his awkward first-time teenage dating exploits with his Soviet music-loving classmate, Vika ( a quirky Amy Powell ). But once the Boy meets up with the handsome athlete Andrey ( a cocky Adam Zaininger ) on a school trip away from home, he realizes his true same-sex attractions.

Where Out of the Blue veers toward drama is when the Boy reveals his homosexuality to his sparring parents as a spur-of-the-moment method of preventing them from splitting up. The militaristic Papa ( Bryan Wakefield ) is outraged, while the confused Mama ( Laura Sturm ) turns to her mother ( Julane Sullivan as the Babushka ) and her own bizarre ideas to turn the Boy straight.

Director Alexander Gelman stages Out of the Blue fairly sparely where everything swirls around the main set piece of a bed. You can read that to be a symbolic choice, though it's also expedient for the hopscotching scenes of different locales and dream sequences. The actors playing the younger characters seem to have more to chew on theatrically, since the motivations of the grownups tend to be basically angry and angst-filled.

The ending is also fairly ambiguous, leaving things for audiences to decipher whether or not the events really occurred of if it was just another dream sequence. But that ambiguity looks like it had to be built into the play, just as a lot of angry and biased views against homosexuality are also expressed toward the end.

With its U.S. debut of Out of the Blue, Organic Theater shares a vital piece of theater that hopefully will have an effect in changing hearts and minds in Russia. And it is best not to become complacent that things are all that fine here in the United States, since much of the anti-gay Russian bile spilled in Out of the Blue is also still spewed in this country, too.


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