BWW Review: HANSEL AND GRETEL is a Sweet Holiday Treat at Synetic Theater
In Synetic Theater's Hansel and Gretel, based loosely on Grimm's fairytale version, Hansel (Justin J. Bell) and Gretel (Sharisse Taylor) go from being in the mall with their distracted babysitter (Raven Wilkes) to being in a mysterious wonderland with no mall or babysitter to be found. While Synetic's production is less dark than Grimm's fairytale, it is just as entertaining for children and adults alike. By toning down the dark elements of the beloved tale, this production focuses on how Hansel and Gretel work together on their journey through the forest. Perhaps besides the change in tone from the original, what makes this production unique from any other adaptions (stage or no stage) of Hansel and Gretel is that there isn't any dialogue, which brings about a challenge. How does one convey a story to children in a way that is understandable without the conversations between the characters? The answer lies in the use of precise facial expressions and movements done by the energetic cast.
Synetic Theater meets the challenge head-on with a tight trio comprising of Justin J. Bell, Sharisse Taylor, and Raven Wilkes. Bell, Taylor, and Wilkes are able to express their emotions and thoughts so well with their faces and movements. Many of the scenes involve the use of movement through dance. Standout dance scenes include the cast twirling with blue fabric to depict the movement of water and Hansel ice skating with Gretel. Besides the movement aspects of this production, the puppetry is the icing on the proverbial gingerbread house. Raven Wilkes, who plays a number of roles including the babysitter, transforms herself into a stag and a witch. She takes on the movements of each character, especially the witch, with such grace and ease. Overall, the cast of Hansel and Gretel give sweet, delightful life to the characters that they depict on stage.
The production's elements of dance and lack of dialogue are Synetic Theater's signatures, but there is a lack of consideration about how different children process the information presented to them on stage. Since Hansel and Gretel is a children's show, Synetic Theater needs to consider how children with disabilities process what is being shown to them on stage. This would allow all children to be able to enjoy the show without preventing them from being able to follow this delightful story. That being said, if a parent who has a child with disabilities would like to take his or her child to the show, he or she should do so, but be aware of how Hansel and Gretel's theatrical elements might impact the child's viewing experience.
Synetic Theater's production of Hansel and Gretel, directed by Tori Bertocci and Elena Velasco, is a wonderfully sweet show with a message perfect for the upcoming holidays and for everyday life.
Running time: About 50 minutes with no intermission
Photo caption and credit: Raven Wilkes (Babysitter), Justin Bell (Hansel), and Sharisse Taylor (Gretel) Photo Credit: Johnny Shryock
Hansel and Gretel runs from December 1, 2017 until December 23, 2017 at the Synetic Theater in Crystal City. Tickets can be purchased online here or at the box office.