Synetic Theater’s production of The Tempest, the latest installment of their Silent Shakespeare Series, can be described using all of the above words. Indeed, the entire stage is covered in four inches of water through which the actors dance, roll, and fight. In fact, a grand total of 2,500 gallons of water is used on the set. As the theater’s Technical Director, Phil Charlwood, says, “Our world is the stage. It’s not a pool. It’s a whole world.” In fact, 75 ponchos are kept on hand for audience members in the “splash zone” of the first three rows.
Before the curtain rises, the audience enters a mystical world. Projections by Multimedia/Projections Designer Riki Kim dance over the pieces of cloth enclosing the show’s water-filled world as watery sounds by Sound Designer Irakli Kavsadze trickle through the auditorium. The play itself begins by filing in the back-story of Shakespeare’s play, beginning when Prospero, an intense Philip Fletcher and a Synetic Founding Company Member, is washed ashore with his infant daughter onto an unknown island. Sycorax, a passionate Victoria Bertocci, battles him, feeling that he might pose a threat to her son, Caliban, a strong Vato Tsikurishvili (who is, in fact, the son of co-founders Paata Tsikurishvili, the show’s visionary director, and Irini Tsikurishvili, the ever-imaginative choreographer.
In fact, this show is a family affair – and not because of the storm that Prospero creates to shipwreck his sister, Antonia, a scheming Francesca Jandasek, and King Alonso, a noble Ryan Tumulty, who had previously cast him and daughter Miranda on board a tiny vessel that landed them on this island. In real-life, Miranda, an elegant Irina Kavsadze, and Stephano, Irakli Kavsadze, are a talented father-daughter pair.
Prospero, true to his name, prospers on the island, particularly after releasing the spirit Ariel, a skilled Dan Istrate, from his tree prison. Ariel, under Prospero, literally plays the tunes that guide others on the island, on what may yet be the most fantastic set piece: a piano turned into a misty fountain. Anastasia R. Simes showed great creativity with her set and costume design. The costumes wrap the characters in a nearly mythical world all their own.
The play continues as, mentioned above, Prospero is able to cast his scheming sister Antonia and King Alonso ashore. He cleverly mixes up the sea-goers, making Alonso believe that his son, Ferdinand, played by a charming Scott Brown, is dead, when in fact he is alive and well – and flirting with Miranda, of whom Prospero is very protective.
The entire ensemble should be commended for performing such physical feats in the middle of their own tempest. As Charlwood states, “The depth is very critical to how the characters move. It’s amazing how much difference a half an inch makes.” Other cast members Emily Whitworth (Trinculo), Pasquale Guiducci (Sebastian), and ensemble members Jace Casey and Katherine Frattini round out the cast.
Through their excellent movement-based work, the characters use Shakespeare’s base to create their own “language of movement,” as Director Paata Tsikurishvili points out. Yes, Shakespeare’s language, translated worldwide, has become almost common – but the language embodied by these actors is both universal and extraordinary.
Running Time: One hour 35 minutes, no intermission.
The Tempest plays through March 24, 2013 Synetic Theater -1800 South Bell Street, in Arlington, VA, in the Crystal City Metro. For tickets, purchase them online.