BWW Review: THE TEMPEST Returns to Synetic Theater
After six years, Synetic Theater's The Tempest, directed by Paata Tsikurishvili, resurfaces from the watery depths. Adapted by Nathan Weinberger and based on Shakespeare's The Tempest, Synetic's revival production brings back the stunning set, but takes on a new twist by gender-switching the roles of Propsero and Antonio. This Tempest focuses on Propsera (Irina Tskiurishvili), a sorceress, and her daughter, Miranda (Maryam Najafzada), who live on an island with spirit-like creatures Caliban (Vato Tskiurishvili) and Ariel (Alex Mills). When Propsera discovers her sister, Antonia (Megan Khaziran), King Alonso (Pablo Guillen), and their crew on a ship passing by the island, she uses her newly found powers to cause the ship to wreck in order to get revenge on what they did to her and Miranda. Synetic's The Tempest keeps the drama and comedy of Shakespeare's original work through the use of movement and emotional expression.
The Tempest like its other signature Synetic Shakespeare productions are wordless. Shakespeare purists, who value the Bard's words, might be taken aback. Despite the absence of Shakespeare's words, the emotions are still present. There is still the dramatic tension between Antonia and the unsuspecting King Alonso. Propersa's determination for revenge against those who hurt her and Miranda is as strong as what is presented in Shakespeare's original work. One of the most interesting aspects of this Tempest is the mother-daughter relationship between Miranda and Propersa. Irina Tskiurishvili's Propersa is a protective mother of Miranda, but also is a woman who is coming to terms with her own power. It is powerful to see Irina in this role which is often reserved for a man. Irina adds an extra layer of depth in her portrayal by capturing Propersa's struggle to learn about forgiveness. Najafzada plays Miranda with a spark of curiosity which shows as she falls in love with Brown's devoted Ferdinand. Ariel and Caliban, who might be considered minor characters in Shakespeare's play, become main characters through Mills and Tskiurishvili's eye-catching and energetic performances.
This production isn't all turbulent dramatic waters. Shakespeare's signature comedic moments are ever-present. These moments are often provided by the drunk Stephano (Joshua Cole Lucas) and his friend Trinculo (Katherine DuBois Maguire). It is side-splittingly funny to see Stephano and Trinculo share a drink with Caliban. It's even funnier seeing the trio become dancing puppets by Ariel. Let's just say that you might recognize some of those moves. The audience also can get in on the fun. Ariel interacts and teases anyone sitting in the "Splash Zone."
Synetic's production of The Tempest wouldn't be complete without choreography by Irina Tskiurishvili. The choreography is almost balletic in style at times and mimics the motion of water. This contrasts with the occasional fight scene such as Caliban's twirling Propersa by the head in a murderous fantasy and Propersa encountering Sycorax (Anne Flowers). The set, designed by Anatasia Simes, is a shallow pool surrounded by artfully done rocks which give it depth. The piano, a central feature of the set, turns into a waterfall and a background slope in the rocks turns into a waterslide. The costumes, also designed by Anatasia Simes, are beautifully designed, but still allow the actors to move easily in the water. The music and sound by Kostantine Lortkipanidze consists of reverberant and haunting melodies which complement the choreography.
Even if you are a Shakespeare purist, Synetic Theater's The Tempest is a magical watery world worth diving into.
Running Time: About 90 minutes with no intermission
Photo caption and credit: The cast of Synetic Theater's The Tempest. Photo by Johnny Shryock.
THE TEMPEST plays the Synetic Theater (1800 S. Bell Street, Arlington, VA) through October 20, 2019. For tickets, call the box office at 866-811-4111 or purchase them online.