Paata Tsikurishvili on Directing ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ at Synetic Theater by Joel Markowitz

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Synetic Theater’s Artistic Director Paata Tsikurishvili talks about his new production of The Picture of Dorian Gray. What makes this production so new and exciting?

Director and Artistic Director Paata Tsikurishvili.
Director and Artistic Director Paata Tsikurishvili.

Why is The Picture of Dorian Gray so Synetic-like? Why did you want to make it into a Synetic Production?

Well, that’s just it; it is and it isn’t Synetic-like. Sure, there are elements of gothic horror which we’ve employed in many of our shows, but beyond that, it’s also very anti-Synetic in a sense. Wilde was a writer of essays and plays, but almost more than any of this he was also a philosopher. He trafficked in words. Even more, at the heart of this particular story is a two-dimensional static rendering. In complete contrast to all this, though, we at Synetic traffic largely in movement and fluidity. So then the question became not how is Dorian Gray Synetic-like, but rather, how could we make it Synetic-like?. The challenge of this is what appealed to me most.

When did you first think of adapting it and how long will the entire process take – from inception to auditions/casting, rehearsals, to opening night?

My dramaturge, Nathan Weinberger, suggested the possibility early this year. He started work on it then. All in all, the whole process, from inception to opening, took about 10 months.

What themes have you selected to include and focus on in your production?

The idea that one’s self-image can become so overpowering as to literally come to life and take control—that idea of “lethal vanity,” as it was put to me, is concept I found fascinating. Also, the triangulated relationship of Dorian, Lord Henry, and Basil—Lord Henry’s darkness, Basil’s lightness, bleeding into the “Gray” caught between them—is something I wanted to explore fully and give full weight to.
(4) Dallas Tolentino portrays Dorian Gray. Why did you select him for the role? What do you admire most about his performance? The first thing about Dallas is his complete reliability. He says he’s going to do something, he does it. Not only this, but I know I can count on him to give an excellent performance too, which is exactly what he’s doing. That sort of winsome little-boy charm, masking and suggesting a much darker potential and sensuality—it’s just right for the part and is truly wonderful. Wilde would be proud of him.

What advice and recommendations did you give him in preparing for his role and in rehearsals?

Project a little more, maybe go up on that one line—outside of this, he didn’t really need much advice. His instincts were just right from the outset.

Please introduce your cast. Are there any Synetic first-timers in the cast, and where did you find them?

Well, first, in the role of the Portrait, we have the ‘liquid-like’ Philip Fletcher, who’s been with us from the beginning. Dallas, Joe Carlson (Lord Henry), Rob Smith (Basil), Vato (Alan), Mitch (James), Cathy Gordon and Irina Kavsadze (both in the Ensemble) have all done several Synetic shows now. Our newcomers are Rachael Jacobsen as Sybil and Rachel Burkhardt in the Ensemble, both enormously talented. I would say we have a very healthy mix of fresh faces and old guard talent this time around, which I always like.

What were the greatest challenges for you in rehearsals? And how have you resolved some of these challenges?

Since this is a very tech-heavy show, of course not all elements can be ready on the first day of rehearsals. Having to “imagine” our way around these aspects until they’re ready is always one of our greatest challenges. It’s all up to the actors, and, as usual, they showed their usual patience and imagination.

What do you most admire about your designers’ work on the show?

What I admire most about the design for this show is its straightforwardness. Simple, clear lines that suggest without overstating, allowing Wilde’s language and our language of movement plenty of room to breathe.

Dallas Tolentino and Philip Fletcher. Photo by Koko Lanham.
Dallas Tolentino and Philip Fletcher. Photo by Koko Lanham.

How would you describe Irina’s choreography and Konstantine Lortkipanidze’s score?

Koki’s music is gorgeous for this one. He’s got an absolutely beautiful piece for the Portrait’s theme. And Ira is, as usual, extraordinary. Her choreography for this has got just the right balance of daring and restraint, which perfectly compliments this story, which is all about suggestion, punctuated with some horrifyingly explicit realizations.

How can audiences in 2013 relate to The Picture of Dorian Gray?

The hedonistic, if-it-feels-good-do-it philosophy of Lord Henry is available to us now at the push of a button. It’s a time of complete indulgence and instant gratification. The obsession with self-image, with maintaining physical beauty—this is the Age of Dorian, as far as I’m concerned.

If you could stay young forever like Dorian Gray – what age would you like to be forever and why?

Wouldn’t want to. If working on this story has taught me anything, it’s that eternal youth is not all it’s cracked up to be.

What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing The Picture of Dorian Gray?

I’d like people to have seen something different from us. I’d like to dispel the myth that, with Synetic,”If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” I’d like to show that we’re much more than a company of dancers; that as much real acting as movement does in fact require, our actors are also fully capable of delivering some pretty great text too.

What else, after all, is the point? This was always something that I tried to keep at the forefront of my mind during the entire process of working on Dorian Gray.
The Picture of Dorian Gray plays through November 3, 2013 at Synetic Theater – 1800 South Bell Street, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.

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LINKS

Nathan Weinberger on Adapting The Picture of Dorian Gray for Synetic Theater’s Production.

Dallas Tolentino on Playing Dorian Gray at Synetic Theater by Joel Markowitz.

Yvonne French’s review of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

John Stoltenberg on The Picture of Dorian Grey in his column ‘Magic Time!’