February 21, 2017
Special to The Alexandria Times
Some of Synetic’s “Silent Shakespeare” series productions are of the more classical variety. Knights in leather armor and ladies in diaphanous gowns, kings with proper crowns and gallant, swaggering lads who rescue damsels. That works for those who like their Shakespeare neat and undiluted. For my money, the crazier, the more outlandish and the sexier, the more I’m going to love it. Directed by Irina Tsikurishvili, one of the founding members of the Georgian troupe together with her husband and Artistic Director, Paata Tsikurishvili, this new version of The Taming of the Shrew is decidedly over the top outrageous. We need this. A straight 90 minutes of madcap silliness strung together by a familiar plot and performed by a cast of inspired dancers. Sign me up.
In a stunning Magritte-like formality, fellow mourners gather. Clad in black Victorian garb with umbrellas held aloft, they grieve the demise of fashion designer Baptista’s wife. The explosive sounds of thunder and lightning frame their little scene. As they depart, several of the gentlemen lovingly kiss the hand of Katherina (Irina Tsikurishvili). One brazen swain grabs her, bends her backwards and plants one on her lips. She is the most sought after, and unattainable of all – a girl on fire garnering headlines in the scandal sheets for her uncontrollable behavior. Her sister, Bianca (Nutsa Tediashvili), a flirty starlet, glamorously clad in electric yellow mini dress, is no match for her sister’s intensity. As for her paramour, Lucentio (Justin J. Bell) he must woo Bianca on the QT, and does it as a woman in a tiny dress and Louise Brooks bob as her music teacher. It’s outlandish. Beyond the pale. Such fun!
The story is set in PADUAWOOD, the iconic Hollywood sign has been replaced. Here the men are flashy hipsters in pegged trousers, the women fiercely trendy and the paparazzi ubiquitous. It’s all about the nightlife, hooking up at the club and vogueing for the camera. Fashion shows are where they strut their stuff and here we are treated to an ersatz Victoria Secret runway scene, as elaborate as anything from Ziegfeld’s follies, with models in de rigeur feathery angel wings and erotic lingerie. Additional suitors Tranio (Scott S. Turner), Hortensio (Stephen Russell Murray), Gremio (Zana Gankhuyag) and Grumio (Alex Mills) swarm around the ladies, alternately posing and roughhousing, eager to impress their targets.
Petrucchio, selected by Katherina’s father to pursue her in marriage, is a painter bereft of inspiration. He is portrayed by the sensational dancer Ryan Sellers, whose acrobatic leaps are Baryshnikovian and whose physical attributes are swoon-worthy. His fights with Katherina are as deliciously chaotic as the steamy love scenes. Tsikurishvili mirrors his enmity and passion exquisitely. This may be one of her greatest roles – one in which she shows her magnificent range as a both a comic actor and powerhouse performer.
Zana Gankhuyag has choreographed this unique and visually sensuous production, showing off this talented cast to their fullest. And credit Anastasia Rurikova Simes for the countless, elaborate, crazy costumes that never fail to amuse, most inexplicably a banquet wherein all the guests save Katherina wear massive chicken heads and a girl in skimpy black patent leather biker gear lures Petrucchio from atop a motorcycle. A lobster codpiece makes an appearance. Don’t ask. Just go.
Highly recommended. (And for those of you who have never been to a Synetic Theater production, they have garnered a total of 93 Helen Hayes Award nominations and 27 Awards for directing, choreography, acting, costume design and best play.)
Through March 19th at Synetic Theater, 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington in Crystal City. For tickets and information call 1-866-811-4111 or visit www.synetictheater.org.