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Review: Synetic's lush A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM sparkles and pops at Synetic Theater

Silent Shakespeare is full of athleticisim, belly laughs and tender moments

Synetic Theater's wordless A Midsummer Night's Dream is, indeed, a dream to behold. An innovative merging of drama and movement, Synetic's silent exploration of the classic work sparkles and pops. It's full of both belly laughs and tender moments. The power and athleticism of the company along with the lush production elements give a fresh perspective to experience the timeless Shakespearean favorite.

Into the mystical forest ruled by the fairies' King Oberon (Philip Fletcher) and Queen Titania (Stella Bunch) comes runaway young lovers Lysander (Lev Belolipetski), Hermia (Nutsa Tediashvili), Helena (Anna Tsikurishvili) and Demetrius (Aaron Kan). Add in a bumbling company of slapdash local performers readying a performance for the wedding of the duke, and the considerable trickery of the sprite Puck (Ariel Kraje), and chaos ensues.

Review: Synetic's lush A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM sparkles and pops at Synetic Theater
Stella Bunch as Titania.

"This summer is a perfect moment to sprinkle some of Puck's fairy dust and give our audiences some real magic," remarked Artistic Director Paata Tsikurishvili. "There's an entire new generation of Washingtonians that haven't yet met Synetic, and our current audiences are clamoring for wonder and joy. This Midsummer is a crowd-pleasing, awe-inspiring representation of the Synetic aesthetic.

While aspects of the production's physicality borrow from Keystone Cops and early silent movies, it would be a disservice to imagine the company's movement so narrowly. The production weaves in influences from circus arts to parkour, from gymnastics and modern dance. And while the strength and litheness of the performers' bodies are mesmerizing, there are also subtle and quiet moments where a fleeting facial expression or gentle gesture tells the story. While Shakespeare's words are masterful and enduring, Synetic strips the story to its emotional essence and shares its wonder.

Review: Synetic's lush A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM sparkles and pops at Synetic Theater
Nathan Weinberger as Quince.

Ariel Kraje as Puck drives the action. Energetic Kraje never stops - tumbling, climbing, spinning and leaving a sprinkling of pixie dust and confusion in her wake. Titania (Bunch) and Oberon (Fletcher) are sexy and sinuous rulers of the magical, mystical forest. Kim-Anh Aslanian as Cobweb, Allie Zagorski as Peaseblossom and Irene Hamilton as the snake add to the lush and supernatural nature of the forest where fireflies sparkle, vines twist to the sky, and a few drops from a certain flower can cause someone to become instantly infatuated with whomever their eyes first see upon waking.

Young lovers Lysander and Hermia, Helena and Demetrius, flee to this forest from Athens when Duke Theseus (Pablo Guillen) commands that Hermia marry Demetrius even though she loves Lysander and her friend Helena is smitten with Demetrius. Lev Belolipetski, Nutsa Tediashvili, Anna Tsikurishvili and Aaron Kan work well together as the besotted young teens. As Puck's meddling stirs up all sorts of confusion for the four young lovers, the actors' antics ramp up with expert speed, precision, and good-hearted humor.

Review: Synetic's lush A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM sparkles and pops at Synetic Theater
Lev Belolipetski as Lysander and Aaron Kan as Demetrius.

Likewise, the troupe of Rude Mechanicals is endearingly inept and earnest as they seek to create a special entertainment for the upcoming Athenian wedding. Vato Tsikurishvili as local Athenian star, Nick Bottom, ramps up the hilarity with his assured comic timing, subtle movement, and tremendous strength. Nathan Weinberger, Katherine DuBois, Pablo Guillen, Josh Lucas, Bengt-Erik Nelson and Koki Lortkipanidze as the local tradesmen-turned-performers are high energy and wonderfully amusing.

Review: Synetic's lush A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM sparkles and pops at Synetic Theater
Vato Tsikurishvili as Bottom (wearing crown) and Josh Lucas as
Snout in Synetic Theater's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Background
(L-R): Bengt-Erik Nelson as Tom and Pablo Guillén as Snug.

Music and sound drive a lot of the production's mood and emotion since there is no dialogue. Koki Lortkipanidze composed the original music and is sound designer. He also plays the piano on stage as a Rude Mechanical. The piano is open-faced so we can see the hammers and strings wildly striking. Lortkipanidze at times strums the piano strings for a zingy, off-kilter sound that matches the mayhem in the forest.

The other production elements are equally exquisite - there's not a lot cluttering the stage, what is there is carefully curated for maximum impact. Scenic designer Phil Charlwood uses yellow lit tubes to suggest the trees and vines of the forest. Costume designer Anastasia Rurikov shows a sense of humor with heart boxers, glitz with golden capes, sexiness with Titania and Oberon's barely-there costumes, and ingenuity throughout. Andrew Griffin's lighting design is moody and dreamlike saturated color.

Review: Synetic's lush A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM sparkles and pops at Synetic Theater
Alyssa Zagorski as Peaseblossom.

Director Paata Tsikurishvili once again directs the work that earned the company several Helen Hayes awards and nominations since the adaptation first premiered as part of the company's groundbreaking wordless Shakespeare series. Irina Tsikurishvili, founding associate artistic director, choreographed the innovative and expressive movement. Ben Cunis is the fight choreographer.

A Midsummer Night's Dream serves up fun and frivolity. The cast is universally strong and is a joy to watch. With this production, Synetic delivers what it does best: an innovative, thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable synthesis of drama and movement.

Runtime: 100 minutes with no intermission

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (by William Shakespeare; adapted by Paata Tsikurishvili and Ben Cunis) runs through July 24 Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. The production is at Synetic Theater, 1800 South Bell Street in Arlington, VA 22202. For tickets, information and Covid protocols, please see the company's website here.

Photos by Chris Ferenzi for Synetic Theater.




From This Author - Pamela Roberts

Pam came to Washington for the politics but instead found a home in its cultural community. For more than 20 years, Pam worked behind the scenes in DC’s non-profit theatres as a grant writer and... (read more about this author)


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