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Wet and Wild – A Mind Bending Tempest at Synetic Theater

Jordan Wright
Feb 25, 2013
Special to The Alexandria Times

Cast of The Tempest; photo by Johnny Shryock

Cast of The Tempest; photo by Johnny Shryock

There is only one way to grok Synetic’s ‘Silent Shakespeare’ productions and that is to give your self over, heart, mind and soul, to the fantasy unfolding upon the stage.  Because like a steamy love affair, Synetic’s style of theatre is a paean to passion with no holds barred.  It’s total surrender without a net.  There is neither map nor compass, nor sheet music nor gyroscope, to guide you – even for The Tempest, a tale you thought you knew.  But in the time it takes one thunderous lightning bolt to reach earth, Synetic has entered your brain space and there is no turning back.

The play opens to a breathtaking set designed by Anastasia Rurikov Simes.  The entire stage is an island of 2,500 gallons of six-inch deep water.  As Artistic Director, Paata Tsikurishvili, announced on opening night, “This set is extremely dangerous and extremely difficult to perform on,” further evidence that Synetic’s alternate universe, filled to overflowing with technological wizardry, is a perilous experiment.  In 2010 Synetic employed this same technique in its production of King Arthur and people have been raving about it ever since.

We enter this watery world with the appearance of Prospero (Phillip Fletcher) cutting an elegant swath through the mist – the backdrop lit by the swirling  amorphous shapes of a ferocious storm and draped with diaphanous torn sails of a ship run aground.  Ocean waves crash cacophonously against the island’s cliffs and eerie electronic music swells in the distance.  A piano sits off to the side, its keyboard a waterfall under which Caliban retreats.  A light box held by Prospero to reference his precious books, pulses in shades of red and pink.

Soon the two meet and lock in a ferocious battle as sprays of water spew across the stage and onto the first three rows known as the “splash zone”.  No worries.  Courtesy ponchos are graciously provided.

Ryan Tumulty as Alonso and Philip Fletcher as Prospero; Irina Kavsadze as Miranda and Scott Brown as Ferdinand (in background) photo by Johnny Shryock

Ryan Tumulty as Alonso and Philip Fletcher as Prospero; Irina Kavsadze as Miranda and Scott Brown as Ferdinand (in background) photo by Johnny Shryock

Dan Istrate, one of the leading luminaries of Russian theatre, guest stars in his role as the pop-locking Ariel, clad in an anime-inspired costume deserving of the Silver Surfer, and designed by, yes, Simes again, who does triple duty with set, costumes and properties.  Irakli Kavadze is outstanding as Stephano, the drunken captain, as are the sensuous sylph-like Irina Kavsadze as Miranda, and Vato Tsikurishvili as the brutish Caliban.

An overall sense of magic and mysticism pervades every riveting aspect of this production where dizzying acrobatics, flips, somersaults and ballet combine with the elements of water, sound and light to give the audience an electrifying rendition of Shakespeare without words, an unparalleled near-psychedelic experience, dotted with Gangnam style, Latin salsa and waltz, including a synchronized nod to Busby Berkeley.

Highly recommended.

Through March 24th at Synetic Theater, 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington in Crystal City.  For tickets and information call 1 800 494-8497 or visit www.synetictheater.org.

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