Synetic Theater weaves a fusion of theatrical elements to bravura and mesmerizing effect in their current production of their acclaimed past Helen Hayes Award-winning hit, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The hook that grabs you in the work of this splendid theater company has always been their sense of total commitment to their vision – fusing elements of visual decor, costumes, and set design, evocative musical selections and – most of all – their stunning command of sheer physicality and movement. These elements has always been their hallmarks and, never so much, as in this whimsical yet elegant production of the William Shakespeare’s classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Indeed, one is whisked away as if in a dreamlike trance due to the artful synthesis of all the elements that constitute this show. Director Paata Tsikurishvili (also the Founding Artistic Director) and Founder Irina Tsikurishvili (also Resident Choreographer) are to be commended for their leadership of this very unique and distinctive theatrical company.
The amazing feat of this theater company is that, even with such gloriously-fused theatrical elements, the story is never overwhelmed by the theatrical elements but, rather, only enhanced and enriched by the radical technical choices. Here we have a wordless recreation of Shakespeare’s light and witty play and this approach lends itself to provoking the audience’s imagination in an even more powerful way. It is never less then amazing to realize that a wordless recreation would even be attempted for such a character-driven piece but the Synetic team pulls it off brilliantly. Perfect fodder for a diversion from the intense DC metro area summer heat, these enchanted woods are a technical marvel of scenic design as created by Set Designer Anastasia Rurikov Simes. The Lighting Design by Andrew Griffin shifts fluidly from scene to scene – from a lush set piece of waltzing couples in evening gowns (costumes by Simes as well) to fairies who flaunt their shiny large-spread wings to the somber earth tones of the boisterous and earthy mechanicals who perform Pyramus and Thisbe.
The musical choices utilized – from languorous interludes to cutting hard-edged musical passages – aid immeasurably to the mood of the proceedings. Credit must be given to Sound Creative Irakli Kavsadze and Resident Composer Konstantine Lortkipanidze – for, indeed, the audience keys into the musical effects instead of the usual spoken words. Kavsadze is a standout in the role of Nick Bottom and mugs and moves hilariously across the stage; Kavsadze looks endearingly like the late, lamented James Gandolfini of the television hit The Sopranos. Also marvelous is Philip Fletcher (Oberon) – Fletcher looks and moves every inch the King and moves with authority and command.
Most effective of all is Alex Mill’s devilishly droll creation of Puck, the play’s well-known mischief-maker and weaver of spells. Mills constantly keeps the audience on-edge as to what he will do next – his every movement seems surprising and spontaneous. Jodi Niehoff shines as Hippolyta and Emily Whitworth (Helena) shows a strong command of the stage.
I had heard so much about this award-winning production in the past that I was eager to test my reactions for this revival and I must admit that I wish the subplot involving the mechanicals did not dominate the proceedings to such a large degree – indeed, this must have been the Director’s choice of interpretation, but I felt it took away from the poetry of the lovers’ romances and the world of the fairy kingdom. The comic proceedings involved with the troupe of aspiring thespians is amusing at times but one longs for the poetry of the lovers lost in the woods.
Many different interpretations of this audience favorite have been presented over the years from the avant-garde British Royal Shakespeare staging at The Kennedy Center several years back to the acclaimed Tina Packer version at The Mount in the Berkshires to Woody Allen’s comic film A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy – yet this version/interpretation is the most unique and distinctive that I have ever seen.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not to be missed!
Running time: One hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays through August 4, 2013 at Synetic Theater – 1800 South Bell Street, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call (800) 494-8497, or purchase them online.