The award-winning Synetic Theater is known for innovative interpretations of classic stories, most notably for their Wordless Shakespeare adaptations. As theaters pivoted to virtual performances and original content, Synetic took it a step further by creating its own streaming service — Synetic Streaming — the first of its kind in the DC Metro area.
Founders Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili fully explore their training in dance, theater, and film through this new platform, utilizing their skills and expertise of movement, music, technology, and visual arts. The platform includes their newly launched film branch, Synetic Motion Pictures. A recent press release shares, “This exciting new endeavor is the realization of a long-held vision of Paata to lean into his roots as a filmmaker and expand the ‘Synetic’ approach to motion pictures.”
I had the opportunity to review this new streaming service and I am very impressed. The web-based platform is easy to maneuver, especially for those already accustomed to streaming platforms. After entering basic information, it gives the options for a monthly plan of $9.99 or a yearly plan for $99.99. There is also an option for à la carte rentals if there is a production in particular you’re looking for. I chose the monthly plan and entered my credit card information.
Within moments, I was able to access Synetic’s full library of streamable content featuring a strong archive of previous performances as well as a trove of new content. I watched on my personal laptop and also tested it on my mobile phone — both devices were able to stream right away with no lagging. The streaming service is also compatible with Roku and Apple TV.
Based on the trailers provided on the home screen, I decided to start with Beauty and the Beast from 2014. The opening sequence of the stage production is stunning on the screen. The use of shadow puppetry, silhouettes, dramatic lighting, and music were engaging and cinematic. The story transitions to the filmed staging and still holds an impact, even virtually. The audio quality is not ideal, but it does allow viewers to feel the presence of a live audience. Subtitles are provided and I found them helpful, not distracting.
I wanted to try one of Synetic’s Wordless Shakespeare productions and saw that The Tempest was among the available options. I saw this production during its 2013 run and it still stands out as a lasting theatrical experience. The technical aspects of this production are mesmerizing, from the beautifully dramatic lighting and sets to the incredible feat of submerging a stage in water. I wanted to see if this remounted 2019 production was able to translate for virtual viewing — and to my delight it did! The audio was recorded from the house, but doing so allows the at-home viewer to hear the splashing of the water and audience reactions. It’s a worthy trade-off, especially as the water creates its own soundscape when paired with the music and effects.
I then chose content specifically developed for this new streaming service — one of nine short films currently available. I started with All the World’s a Stage featuring long-time Syneticon Scott Brown reinterpreting a moment of his performance in the 2016 production of As You Like It. The 18-minute piece is presented as a short movie rather than a filmed theatrical performance, and showcases the strengths and stylings that Synetic audiences expect. It is beautifully performed and produced as a partnership of stage and screen. The audio issues I experienced in the previous two productions were not an issue as it was produced as a film rather than a recorded live performance.
I’m looking forward to using this streaming service to view the full library available from Synetic. Their 2015 production of Much Ado About Nothing was most recently added and is next on my watch list, followed soon by their critically acclaimed 2014 production of Hamlet.
The fact that audiences now have direct access to Synetic’s impressive archives in addition to new original films is groundbreaking. Accessibility for the theater community is more important now than ever before. It’s understood that online viewing doesn’t provide the same visceral experience as live theater, but virtual theater allows access to those unable to participate in an in-person experience, whether it be due to financial, geographical, or personal reasons.
Streamable content will only grow in popularity, even as theaters slowly reopen to live audiences. The Synetic Streaming platform in particular allows this innovative group to explore the next chapter of their story — original film making. I am excited to see their continued storytelling through filmmaking, previously recorded performances, and (hopefully soon) live theatrical performances.