BWW Review: RICHARD III at Synetic Theater
Shakespeare's Richard III has been no stranger to DC theatre goers this season. In true Synetic fashion, their current production turns a well known tale on its...crown. In this case, we are treated to a Richard who is half-man and half-AI. Director Paata Tsikurishvili describes him as "an individual totally warped by the unfeeling machinery that consumes him [following his injuries on the battlefield], in a terrifyingly surreal synergy of the organic and the synetic."
Richard's anti-hero psyche is addictive and the audience is quickly drawn into it from the first moment, as combatants thrust themselves into the audience, with weapons drawn and lasers pointed. We immediately feel the chaos of battle, indicative of the roller coaster ride on which we're about to embark. In appearance, this Richard (Alex Mills) evokes Robert De Niro as "The Monster" in the 1994 film, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, minus the redeeming humanity, of course. While Synetic's production (their 14th "Wordless Shakespeare") does make use of some of the familiar Shakespearean text, Mills is particularly adept at conveying Richard's skill at manipulating those around him without compunction. We recognize him as evil personified and yet we are powerless to resist joining him on this dangerous journey.
He is well matched, and at times, exceeded by the acting chops of Irina Tsikurishvili as Queen Elizabeth and Maryam Najafzada as Lady Anne. Both carry the emotional weight of the play, losing husbands and children, while being caught up in a web of patriarchal intrigue, before both Elizabeths turn the tables on Richard. As the Princess Elizabeth, Nutsa Tediashvili convincingly grows from hopeful youth, to mournful daughter and sister, to hardened young woman of the world. As the devious Buckingham, Matt R. Stover does a complete 180 from his previous role as the romantic but tongue-tied Christian in Synetic's Cyrano. His ambition is matched only by his drug addiction before he inevitably outlasts his usefulness to Richard. Philip Fletcher's King Edward is indeed the "sun of York", seeing the best in his brother, until it is too late. This impressive ensemble also includes Thomas Beheler as the unjustly accused Clarence, Tim Proudkii and Aaron Kan as the Princes, and Jordan Clark Halsey as the victorious Richmond. Richard's fellow AI slash minions, Tyrell and Ratcliffe, played respectively by Ana Tsikurishvili and Scean Aaron, spend most of the performance in Hannibal Lector-esque masks, but are convincing as programmable henchmen, nonetheless.
As with every Synetic production, the technical team is an integral part of the show's success. Tennessee Dixon's scenic design evokes both the technological and ephemeral aspects of the world we inhabit. The throne at the center of the conflict appears to be constructed of warped ladders which literally lead nowhere, illustrating the very human folly of ambition. Screen projections and video footage meld seamlessly with the live action on stage, augmenting the sense that we are in a very technologically surreal landscape, a world that is bigger than the small band of humans on stage.
Synetic's Resident Composer, Konstantine Lortkipanidze again strikes just the right notes to complement and enhance the performances of the actors. Costume Designer Erik Teague does an exceptional job of balancing the narrative function of each character with the physical demands of such a performance.
Synetic Theater's Richard III runs through June 16, 2019 at their Crystal City theatre. Run time is 105 minutes with no intermission. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit synetictheater.org.
Richard Alex Mills / Queen Elizabeth Irina Tsikurishvili / Buckingham Matt R. Stover / Lady Anne Maryam Najafzada / Clarence Thomas Beheler / King Edward Philip Fletcher / Richmond Jordan Clark Halsey / Prince Tim Proudkii / Younger Prince Aaron Kan / Princess Elizabeth Nutsa Tediashvili / Tyrell Ana Tsikurishvili / Ratcliffe Scean Aaron
Director Paata Tsikurishvili / Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili / Resident Composer Konstantine Lortkipanidze / Adapter Nathan Weinberger / Scenic and Multimedia Designer Tennessee Dixon / Costume Designer Erik Teague / Lighting Designer Brian S. Allard / Sound Designer Thomas Sowers / Properties Designer Kelli L. Jones / Video Producer and Editor Scott Brown / Resident Stage Manager Marley Giggey / Technical Director Phil Charlwood