Synetic Theater Romeo & JulietBy Xandra Weaver • Nov 28th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Synetic Theater in Crystal City, Arlington, VA
Through December 23rd
$45-$55/$25 Student or Under 25
Reviewed November 25th, 2011
The Silent Shakespeare Festival by Synetic Theater in Arlington has brought their last show in the series, Romeo and Juliet, to the stage. A dazzling spectacle without words, the show instead used light, music, dance and fight choreography to tell the timeless love story. The basic story, of lovers fated to meet despite their parent’s feud was brilliantly told in a surprisingly detailed way. One would expect to lose much of the details of the humor, wit and intricate story that went along with the source material, when dealing with a show that uses no words. However, the acting and action of the show not only drove the story in a compelling way, but allowed for intimate and detailed moments.
The most striking element of the production was undoubtedly the set. Towering high over the actors, pieces of clockwork and machinery moved and hissed smoke to shroud the actors in fog. The set was further used to encompass and enclose the actors when the ensemble actors picked gears off the set and used them as borders for rooms and pieces of scenery. This was particularly effective when the two households, the Montagues and the Capulets, lined up to run across the stage at each other while brandishing their gears like weapons. When the inevitable clash came, the gears seemed to bounce off of one another, a very tangible example that the two houses would not fit together. In another scene, the gears were twirled rapidly and fairly cut a line between the two dancing lovers, like rotating saw blades slashing in to separate them.
The acting itself took the audience on a journey where the story didn’t need words or captions to be understood. Instead of relying on miming or charades to narrate the action, the movement of dance was used by each actor to tell their own character’s story. Romeo’s best friend, Mercutio, played by Philip Fletcher, told a story of bluster and bravado, and showed his joking prankster nature, all through his swaggering walk and physical comedy. The Nurse, Irina Tsikurishvili, had body language that was flighty, anxious and bewildered in one scene, then when she was sent out of the house to find Romeo to give him a message from Juliet, she portrayed her worldliness and vanity as she preened in front of Romeo’s friends. The lovers, Romeo, (played by Alex Mills) and Juliet (played by Natalie Berk) told the audience the moment they fell in love, by their bodies feeling the shock of first sight.
The music was the final major element of the production’s story telling, and it too was well used. The clock pendulum which dominated the center of the stage began the show by ticking and clicking, setting the mood as it first began as a slow and steady beat, then sped up and began to syncopate and become just slightly off the main beat. Throughout the production, both harmonic and dissonant tones were used to a somewhat techno effect, although with the sounds of the clock and the pitch of the notes, the overall impression was of a dark industrial arena.
Lighting this huge stage must have stood a challenge for Colin K. Bills, the designer, but when the lights in the audience went down, and the show began, not a beam of light nor a color was wasted. All the actors were given light according to their mood and role. The comical characters were lit from the front, while the more dramatic scenes were often lit with piercing lights that cut through the smoke on the stage to give focus. Most notable of all, the love scene was lit from behind a screen, with spinning lights held by other dancers to give the feeling almost of a 360 view of the love dance, while still keeping well-defined edges to the shadows they cast.
The success of the show was not just of taking the well-known story and conveying it with dance. This production did so much more, casting a mood and an atmosphere all their own, using every element of the stage to convey their tale.
Growing up behind the Iron Curtain in the former Soviet Union, I often dreamed of performing and producing American theater. My career as an artist led me from the Republic of Georgia around Europe and finally to the United States. And over the last ten years, my wife Irina and I have dedicated our lives to building a company in our Nation’s capital that combines all our passions and fuses multiple art forms: Synetic Theater.
Since Synetic’s inception, we have worked with “the art of silence.” Our debut production, Hamlet…the rest is silence, was our first effort to take the words from one of the most iconic works of drama in history and tell the story with a different vocabulary. Far from being a mere twist on Shakespeare, however, this production heralded the start of our exploration of a new form of theater. Since that first piece, we have produced six additional original “Silent Shakespeare” productions, which have been key to our overwhelming success and recognition, as these productions have received incredible critical and audience acclaim as well as garnered 45 Helen Hayes Nominations and 16 awards.
Newcomers to Synetic may think there is contradiction inherent in all of our acclaimed wordless Shakespeare adaptations: how is it that these timeless works can be performed without the essential text? For me, Shakespeare’s plays are written in a universal language, having been translated and adapted for audiences around the globe. And in fact, the text serves as a basis in all our work: it provides us not only with the story but incredible imagery, archetypes and metaphor, all of which are heightened to create an immersive stage experience that we feel “in our bones.”
I chose [Romeo and Juliet and two other] productions to showcase our incredible range and fusion of techniques that we have incorporated over the years – such as balancing tragedy with comedic elements, integrating fight choreography into dance sequences, using multi-media to enhance the visual experience, utilizing a highly-trained company of actors to create the atmosphere and set, all the while set to a dramatic soundscape – and to lay the foundation for a touring company.
[This production,] set within the gears of a giant clock, Romeo and Juliethighlights the exuberance and passion of youth in which time seems to both stop and accelerate.
As always, I give my thanks to my faithful actors, designers, and production and administrative staff, who have generously committed to this unique program. Thanks also to our audiences, Board of Directors, donors, volunteers and the D. C. theater community as a whole for their continued generosity and support in spreading the word about our programs.
Enjoy the “unquiet silence” of Synetic!
Photos by Graeme B. Shaw
- Romeo: Alex Mills
- Juliet: Natalie Berk
- Tybalt: Ryan Sellers
- Mercutio: Philip Fletcher
- Nurse: Irina Tsikurishvili
- Lord Capulet: Peter Pereyra
- Lady Capulet: Salma Shaw
- Paris: Scott Brown
- Friar Laurence: Irakli Kavsadze
- Ensemble: Sarah Taurchini, Vato Tsikurishvili, Mary Werntz
- Director: Paata Tsikurishvili
- Choreographer: Irina Tsikurishvili
- Set and Costume Design: Anastasiaa R. Simes
- Lighting Design: Colin K. Bills
- Original Music: Konsantine Lortkipanidze
- Sound Design: Krakli Kavsadze and Konstantine Lortkipanidze
- Stage Manager: Erin Baxter
- Design Assistant: Elizabeth Ennis
- Assistant Lighting Designer: Brittany Diliberto
- Assistant Stage Manager: Marley Monk
- Assistant Stage Manager: Amanda Rhodes
- Production Intern: Scott Tusing
- Photographer: Graeme B. Shaw
- Videographer: Clint Herring
- Graphic Designer: Aram Asarian
- Additional Music: Giya Kancheli:
- Technical Director: Phil Charlwood
- Production Supervisor: Erin Baxter
- Associate Production Manager: Jonathan Weinberg
- Lighting Supervisor: Andrew F. Griffin
- Master Electrician: Aaron Waxman
- Wardrobe: Crystal Fergusson
- Programmer: Ryan Logue
- Costume Construction: Irina Evans, Yuliya Kolesnik, Christel Stevens, Elvina Verzhichinskaya
Disclaimer: Synetic Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/7407.
Xandra Weaver has a great love of the process of theater and the creation of art that has led her into working both behind the scenes and onstage. Her career includes working for many years providing sound and lights for both professional and amateur shows as well as makeup work for a feature film. At college, she specialized in makeup to earn her theater degree, and discovered a love for directing and playwrighting. She's also been a nominee for the DC area theater WATCH awards for her work with the company of The Producers with The Arlington Players.