December 8, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times
In Ben and Peter Cunis’s original adaptation of Gabriel Bardot de Villeneuve’s classic tale of Beauty and the Beast, the audience finds themselves catapulted into a dark world of forest spirits, shapeshifters, a hideous horned beast and a vengeful beauty – – no, not the beautiful ingénue Belle – – but the prince’s spurned first love, Emmeranne, who morphs into a magnificent crow in a scene plucked straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds putting death and destruction foremost on her agenda and setting up the audience for an indelibly unique interpretation. The scorned woman is an introduced character serving as the prince’s nemesis and his reality check. In this telling she is hell-bent on revenge and retribution for his fickle-minded affections.
Renata Veberyte Loman plays the hauntingly vengeful Witch and Narrator, Emmeranne, who taunts and curses the man she has transformed into a terrifying beast. “Crows don’t talk. And love never, ever hurts,” the enchantress proclaims, determined to demonstrate the opposite. Don’t look for Disney’s saucy little teapot to make an appearance. The Cunis brothers’ highly imaginative bedtime story is more in keeping with the fiendish fairy tales of the brothers Grimm, or the moralistic fables of Hans Christian Anderson.
Another introduced character is the top-hatted Fantome, the Beast’s magical servant. Matthew Alan Ward gives a captivating performance in a silent role that draws on his elegant physicality and talent for mime.
Vato Tsikurishvili portrays the Prince and the Beast with both heart and soul, rendering him monstrous at times, at others, as sympathetic a character as Quasimodo. Irina Kavsadze, a delicate beauty who is the perfect foil for the diabolical Emmeranne, the fearsome beast and the castle’s living candelabras that make up the ensemble, plays Belle.
Delivering the perfect alignment of creativity are Scenic Designer Daniel Pinha’s opulent sets and dual ramps providing both comedy and drama, Clint Herring’s original score blending new wave and classical sounds, Sound Designer Thomas Sowers’ eerily futuristic effects, Lighting Designer Brittany Diliberto’s clever transitions all of which combine to produce some splendid special FX throughout, including the Prince’s transmogrification and the creation of a projection screen in the shape of an egg through which the audience views a parallel universe depicted in silhouetted woodcuts.
Irina Tsikurishvili’s choreography adds kinetic flair to a memorable slow motion fight-and-flight scene and a romantic danse è deux between Belle and the Beast, while Costume Designer Kendra Rae draws on leather, silk, fur to reflect lost elegance and folklorica to offer a comedic relief in the costumes of Belle’s ditzy sisters played by Anna Lane and Kathryn Elizabeth Kelly.
Lest you think it’s too scary for children (though I wouldn’t recommend it for the very young), as the theatre was letting out, I asked an eight-year old if the witch had frightened her. “Not at all,” she declared, to which her father added, “She’s not afraid of anything.”
Through January 11th at Synetic Theater, 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington in Crystal City. For tickets and information call 866 811-4111 or visit www.synetictheater.org.