Eight months ago, Mark Weil, the director of Ilkhom Theatre, was murdered in the Uzbeki capital of Tashkent. Many believe that Weil was killed for ideological reasons Ilkhom is the only non-state-sponsored theater company in Uzbekistan. Still, on the day after Weil's death, the company opened his final production as scheduled. Whether it was an act of devotion or subversion, these players take their craft very seriously. Ecstasy with the Pomegranate is one of Weil's final works. The three-hour dance-theater epic is based loosely on the life and art of painter Aleksandr Nikolaev, who was stationed in former Turkestan during the Communist revolution of 1917. Captivated by the bacha, an erotic folk dance performed in illicit teahouses by young men throughout Tashkent, he produced paintings that became a eulogy for the regional Islamic traditions, which did not survive the Soviet invasion. Historical facts and Nikolaev's artworks curl through Weil's play, interpreted by a teahouse proprietor, a closeted homosexual Russian officer, and a dancing girl, among others. Ecstasy may be a bit dense for casual theater-goers, but it is a rare look at a crossroads culture that is otherwise all but lost. Russian and Uzbeki dialogue is supertitled in English.
May 15-17, 8 p.m., 2008