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Review: ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at Synetic Theater

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Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet opens with a chorus announcing the fate that will befall the title characters in just two hours’ time. Synetic Theatre’s wordless Romeo and Juliet, distills that straightforward prologue into an even simpler image: the swinging of a pendulum, the ticking of a clock. Director Paata Tsikurishvili has brought back his award-winning production for a third run at the Crystal City theatre, and it appears to have lost none of its shine in the intervening years.

 Ensemble of 'Romeo and Juliet.' Photo by Johnny Shryock.

Ensemble of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ Photo by Johnny Shryock.

The central metaphor of a clock proves very effective, though perhaps too abstract at times. Set against Konstantine Lortkipanidze and Irakli Kavsadze’s blaring soundtrack of ticks, chimes, blips, bells and beeps, the young lovers are in a constant race against time and their tragic fates. In this, as in all twelve original Wordless Shakespeare productions created by Synetic, choreography, lights, and sound take the place of dialogue. Luckily, the story is so familiar that it is easily followed. Here the plot and characters are well streamlined, even infamous bawds like the Nurse and Mercutio, played by the very funny Kathy Gordon and Philip Fletcher respectively, have retained shades of their obscenity. A scene in which the Nurse attempts to deliver a letter to Romeo, but is intercepted by a teasing Mercutio has the two acrobatically rolling and romping across the stage in true comic delight.

The one thing this production seems to have dispensed with is the central conflict between the Montagues and the Capulets, choosing to focus more on Romeo and Juliet’s impulsive and intensely-felt love affair. Zana Gankhuyag’s Romeo is very traditionally romantic and dreamy, while Irina Kavsadze’s Juliet is bright, but naive. Together, they twist and warp around the stage, eventually consummating in one of the show’s most visually-arresting scenes.

Other high points include the deadly fights between Mercutio and Tybalt (Ryan Sellers) and then Tybalt and Romeo, where stage combat is blended seamlessly with dance and acrobatics. Irina Tsikurishvili’s choreography stuns during the ball where Romeo and Juliet first meet. Though some sequences seem over-emotional and slow paced, the production is at its best during its well-conceived story driven moments.

Zana Gankhuyag (Romeo) and Irina Kavsadze (Juliet). Photo by Johnny Shryock

Zana Gankhuyag (Romeo) and Irina Kavsadze (Juliet). Photo by Johnny Shryock

Technical elements throughout support the show’s central conceit without overwhelming the performances. Colin K. Bills and Brittany Dilberto’s lighting design in particular sets a moody and impressive scene, while Anastasia Simes’ set and costumes are equal parts evocative and flexible.

Synetic Theater’s Romeo and Juliet is Synetic at its bold and sensuous best.

Running Time: 80 minutes, with no intermission.

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Romeo and Juliet plays through March 27, 2016 at Synetic Theatre – 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington, VA. For information or to purchase tickets, call (866) 811-4111, visit their website.

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