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29 Nov, 2013 19:24

‘Orthodox activists’ hijack controversial theater play for ‘blasphemy’

‘Orthodox activists’ hijack controversial theater play for ‘blasphemy’

A vortex of corrupt politicians, prostitutes and a gay clergy-arch-devil in an iconic Moscow theater came to a halt as self-proclaimed Christian activists climbed the stage to denounce the “sodomy”. Some, however, took the stunt as part of the show.

The second act of the provocative play An Ideal Husband staged at the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater by controversial Russian director, Konstantin Bogomolov, ends with a scene of a scantily clad woman rising above the stage with her arms spread, as “Dorian Gray” passionately dances with an apparently homosexual “priest-turned-Mephistopheles.” The priest then kneels and prays at the soaring woman.

Then, seemingly in line with this cacophony of images, several people calling themselves Orthodox Christian “activists” took to the stage and shouted out their condemnation of the play. They said the episode, as well as other provocative scenes, blatantly mocks the crucifix and Jesus Christ himself.

A message posted on the official Facebook page of the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater soon after the incident made it clear the action was an “attempt to disrupt the play.”

“At the end of the second act, the infamous provocateur Enteo came on stage with a support team. They shouted: “How can you tolerate the mockery of our faith? Why do you hate Christ so much, while he was crucified for us,” the message quoted the “activists” as saying, identifying the group’s leader as Dmitriy ‘Enteo’ Tsorionov.

Scuffles ensued at the front of the stage as the theatre’s staff, scene-shifters and theatre-goers attempted to pull of the “provocateurs” off the stage, the theater said, adding that the third act of the play started after ten minutes and went smoothly.

Photo from twitter.com user @cheparukhin

Dmitriy Enteo earned his public fame on the back of several stunts directed at the Pussy Riot punk band and their supporters, and has said that he consciously uses the same “art performance aesthetic”, but for opposite aims.

Enteo had a different account of the incident, blasting the play as “hideous blasphemy,”“sodomy” and “infernal raving” on his Vkontakte page. He said that their action was peaceful, and they did not resist the “security guards,” who started “beating” them. They simply kept appealing to the audience and saying that mocking God is “unacceptable.” Some of the people supported their “cause” with applause, other sympathizers got up and left the play, Enteo claimed.

But some of the theater-goers present at the time of the stunt said in comments on the theater’s Facebook page that the people who got on stage behaved like blatant hooligans, with a female activist shouting hysterically and then throwing and damaging stage microphones.

A scene from "An Ideal Husband. A Comedy" at the Moscow Chekhov Art Theater. (RIA Novosti / Sergey Pyatakov)

Ironically, many in the audience took the antics happening on stage for part of the already unorthodox comedy, a witness told RIA Novosti. The “activists” seemed to fit the bizarre mix of characters from several works of Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekhov, Goethe and the postmodern Russian dramatist, Vladimir Sorokin, who all appeared in a contemporary setting.

Only several minutes after the initial applause given as they thought to cunning improvisation, did the audience realize it was indeed an attempt to disrupt the play. While some chose to leave, most others were hooked by the farcical antics of the stunt, and stayed until the end of the play.

This theater action is the latest in a series of attempts by self-proclaimed Orthodox Christian activists to forcefully protest against ideas they consider offensive to their beliefs. Previous incidents included a “missionary flashmob” in Moscow’s Darwin museum, “an action of the Orthodox inquisition” at an office of a Russian opposition party, and assaults on LGBT activists and Pussy Riot supporters.

Recently, one such activist was handed a one-year suspended sentence for firing eye irritant at a gay rights campaigner during a rally in May, but most others, including Enteo, have never been held accountable.
Director Bogomolov later reacted to the incident during the play on his Facebook page only by saying that it was not worth doing a favor of “advertising for this poor fool.”

Known for his controversial plays, loosely based on the works of renowned authors, but showing the problems of modern society in a grotesque and provocative manner, Bogomolov earlier described An Ideal Husband as a “trash comedy” depicting the “trash” realities of present-day Russia. 

Russian theatre lovers are divided over Bogomolov’s plays, and particularly over his staging of several avant-garde pieces in the iconic Chekhov Moscow Art Theater. Controversy over his latest play based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, prompted Bogomolov to announce he is leaving the theater after disagreeing to make unspecified changes to the play.