Just prior to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, a new law was passed in Russia against the promotion of “nontraditional sexual relations.” This law was to disrupt gay and lesbian life in Russia.
We can remember that Olympic sponsors and western statesman decried this law as well as harassment and violence against gays, which worsened. There were also leaflets stating that prison and fines would be assessed against any deviation from the sexual norm.
This was a marked change because homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993.
Russian emigre Sophia Romma, an accomplished figure skater, saw this change in Russia’s political landscape as a regression into delusional psychopathology. She painted what she thought into a play.
“That Queer Blind Silence” is an absurd, outrageous, macabre tale in which a fictitious gold medalist in figure skating is stripped of his honor and exiled to an asylum in Siberia. In the asylum, the senior female psychiatrist, a lascivious sex-nik and mistress of Vladimir Putin, users spiritual cleansing and ludicrous soul-purging psychiatric tactics to ‘reform’ homosexuals.
Romma games inspiration from Johnny Weir, the 2008 World bronze medalist and three-time U.S. national champion figure skater. His sexual orientation was a source of controversy during and after the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
In “That Queer Blind Silence,” the skater is played by Szimon Pedro, known as the “Ice Oracle,” and he had been living as a heterosexual pretender. After “Ice Oracle” achieves the goal of his life at Sochi, his western thinking and “individual expression” are suddenly seen as corrosive of traditional values, demographic trends and the safety of children.
The Oracle is locked up with prisoners seen and unseen. Those prisoners are an eclectic group. They are the computer analyst and whistleblower Edward Snowden, a Russian lesbian feminist dissident journalist named Masha Guessin’ (based on Masha Gessen), and the ghost of the actor/activist Paul Robeson.
In prison, Szimon is pressured to give up his gay athlete friends and to make him talk, he is subjected to electro-shock therapy, pseudoscientific libido enhancement and bizarre seduction.
The question is is he strong enough to withstand the pressure placed upon him, earning himself heavenly redemption, or will the gold medal around his neck be an albatross of bigotry?
Vladimir Putin is opposed to western influences and those who speak out about his annexation of Crimea. Romma leverages all of these feelings into “That Queer Blind Silence.”
The play’s literary style is courageous and unapologetic staccato verse, and it reveals the angst and paranoia forced upon free-thinkers and ethnic minorities in contemporary Russia.
If you didn’t know about the angst and paranoia going on in Russia today, this play would appear to be a harmless, perverse delusion, but it is very chillingly true.
“In some ways, Russia’s assault on LGBT rights is simply an opposition to American hubris and western concepts of individualism that are foreign to the Russian way of life. Various ethnic minorities threaten the Russian government, as do liberated thinkers, free spirits, nonconventional artists and athletes and reporters who openly criticize the current regime. It’s not just LGBT activists who give Russia the heebie-jeebies. A soul has no true rights due to the indelible fact that the law of Mother Russia abides. The country is striving for liberation but bogged down by its repression of break-through individualism deemed hazardous to the country.” – Playwright Sophia Romma.
Speaking about the theme of this play, Director John Beshaw Farrell says the asylum is a symbol for Russia herself, having lost her own grandeur: Orthodox, Imperial and Soviet. The asylum inmates, all useful idiots, have helped to advanc the dishonest propaganda. They have all been damaged by what they thought were their own virtues, and the consequence of that is they are now unfit for any life other than the one inside a madhouse.
Choreography by Leslie Dockery
Set design by Gregory Okshteyn
Music by Michael Bulychev-Okser
Theme music for “Paul Robeson” by Otis Cotton
Incidental music performed live by “Manana” from Armenia
Actors Alice Bahlke, Walter Krochmal, Grant Morenz, Tommie Thompson, Gavin Rohrer and Marina Levinson.