ACT The second performance by the visiting Ilkhom Theater company concluded on Sunday. Ilkhom uses a very physical and moody style of storytelling that’s unlike most of the theater experiences I’ve had, and I really hope ACT is able to bring them to Seattle again sometime.

I can see why Ecstasy with the Pomegranate was limited to a few days’ run, whereas White White Black Stork ran for three weeks. Pomegranate was longer and told a less universal story, so it was a little harder to follow and was more fatiguing because of the need to read the supertitles (I’m not fluent in Uzbek or Russian).

The story was fascinating – a Russian painter deserts the czar’s army, falls in love with Uzbek culture, converts to Islam and changes his name, and begins living in an older area of Tashkent. He lives near a tea house where young boys perform a bewitching dance form called Bacha. The owner of the Bacha house is murdered, and the Russian military gets involved.

There were a lot of interesting characters and themes packed into this work: misfit life, the meaning of masculinity and gender dynamics (a girl who wishes to dance so she binds her breasts and attempts to pass as a boy, a struggling closeted Russian soldier, the exploited children who perform the Bacha, the macho Russian general who is upset when he hears that his son played an angel in a school play, yet who was himself drawn to the Bacha).

My only criticism of the play would be the breakneck pace at the end. The czar is overthrown back in Russia, which brings about some surprising changes in Tashkent. A lot of things happen very quickly, and it felt rushed to me.

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