In the Moment: ‘Richard iii’ at Synetic Theater

A potent conspiratorial theatrical experience for an anxious age.

Synetic Theater’s Richard iii is a potent conspiratorial theatrical experience for an anxious age such as ours. It is the ultimate in theatrical paranoia, set in a time out of joint.

Synetic Theater’s production of ‘Richard iii’ plays through June 16. Photo by Brittany Diliberto.
Synetic Theater’s production of ‘Richard iii’ plays through June 16. Photo by Brittany Diliberto.

It’s as if Synetic has hung a brightly lit neon sign on its Crystal City venue with the neon marquee flashing “Welcome to an Unhinged Madhouse” rather than Richard iii. Once inside the theater space, the audience is met with shadows and haze, jittery projections, muffled voices, pinpoint shots of occasional laser beams and not just a corrupt man who will become a king, but a technology-enhanced “being”; perhaps a replicant, maybe a cyborg, or conceivably a quasi-man up to no good.

My God, what a rush.

Synetic’s Richard iii is an immersion into a terrifying “Hell on Earth.” It is a worthy experiment, using Shakespeare as its jumping-off point. Just know that for purists with a need for extreme fidelity to The Bard’s original words, Synetic’s Richard iii, as viscerally and freely adapted by Nathan Weinberger, goes its own way under the canny, Day-Glo direction of Paata Tsikurishvili.

Tsikurishvili, with his top-notch creative team of Tennessee Dixon (scenic and multimedia designer), Brian S. Allard (lighting designer), Thomas Sowers (sound designer), and Scott Brown (video producer and Editor) has made Synetic’s Richard iii a cinematic display of raging visuals with jolts of a cyberpunk sci-fi attitude. It is an animated No Fear Shakespeare graphic novel. Or better yet, like getting sucked into a Shakespeare digital game of some kind. I was so caught up in the production that I wanted to grab one of the laser weapons to take on some of the villains myself. I wanted to enter the bold nightmare “game” that Synetic had conjured and spend hours playing inside it.

Synetic’s Richard iii is impressive and gorgeously moody, especially in its visuals. There is a melancholic stealthy evil charm to it befitting Shakespeare’s own original Richard III.

Alex Mills as Richard in Synetic Theater's production of 'Richard iii.' Photo by Brittany Diliberto.
Alex Mills as Richard in Synetic Theater’s production of ‘Richard iii.’ Photo by Brittany Diliberto.

As the final scene of Synetic’s Richard iii flitted past my eyes, I was transported to a long-time favorite movie of mine, Blade Runner. I became Deckard with Rachael taking off for parts unknown.

My DCMTA colleague Sophia Howes has written a spot-on review for Synetic’s Richard iii here. Take the opportunity to view this unique production and let me know your reactions, please.

Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission.

Richard iii plays through June 16, 2019, at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell Street, Arlington, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.