The piece is divided into three parts, with one intermission. The first is labeled "Childhood Legends" and consists of personal stories by the actors, with a physical object serving to anchor each tale. For instance, Rusakevich shows the audience a child's nightgown and talks of how it was one of her own, recently rediscovered by her daughter. The garment holds a painful memory for the performer, involving a childhood humiliation when it was torn off of her and she was made to stand naked for two hours in front of a group of boys as punishment for acting up in kindergarten.
The majority of the actors come together at the end of this section for a non-autobiographical -- but still true tale -- of a 10-year-old Belarusian who has been victimized by the country's current political system, and kept from being adopted by the Italian family she has come to know and love. Since much of what the performers say is based upon news reports, they carry around newspapers, which they then roll up or flatten out to collectively create a mobile puppet version of the girl, who comes "alive" in their more-than-capable hands.
The second section of Zone of Silence, labeled "Diverse," is based on the performers' interviews with men and women on the fringes of Belarusian society, told as first-person narratives. Tarasenka spins a fascinating tale of a record producer with a shady past and no hands, as they were lost to frostbite. In his performance of the story, the actor keeps his hands behind his head, utilizing only his arms and elbows for stage business, such as plugging a guitar into an amplifier.
Gorodnitski performs the tale of a black gay Belarusian man, but while the story itself is compelling, the ethnically white actor's use of a black mask to signify race is problematic as it (perhaps unintentionally) invokes a history of minstrelsy. Similarly, the tales of an elderly woman with a love of Lenin and a homeless man with a passion for dancing have a somewhat condescending tone that makes this middle section of Zone of Silence the least successful.
Following the intermission, however, things pick up with the truly delightful "Numbers." This section emphasizes physical comedy and other non-verbal expressions, which is sure to come as a bit of a relief to audience members who are (like myself) completely reliant upon reading the projected surtitles to understand the words the actors are speaking.
Here, statistics -- including information about sexual slavery, mental illness, suicides, unemployment, and the lingering effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster -- are brought wittily to life. But then, as the numerical data corresponding to what's been performed is projected onto the back wall, the cold hard facts prove sobering.