Synetic Theater Genesis RebootBy Rachael Murray • Feb 14th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Synetic Theater in Crystal City, Arlington, VA
Through March 3rd
1:30 with no intermission
Reviewed February 11, 2012
Genesis Reboot, Synetic Theater’s take on the creation story, is a dense ninety minutes of theatre by brothers Ben Cunis and Peter Cunis. This genesis begins with an Angel asking the question that always sparks imagination: “What if?” This question, however, soon devolves into a Pandora’s Box of the same-as-usual. Genesis Reboot takes the Biblical creation story and turns it on its head–kind of. An Angel attempts to set things straight and do what God could not: Get rid of that pesky serpent in the apple tree, thus foregoing all the uncomfortable stuff that has since plagued mankind. Satan, however, is not down with that. He likes things just the way they are, and takes over what the Angel started (again). Even Satan has a little bit of heart, and so he doesn’t want everything to go the same way. It turns out he has a soft spot for those endearingly opposite brothers, Cain and Abel. From there, it’s a matter of time before this re-creation fails before it could really even get going. This brief synopsis is, of course, a very watered-down version of what actually takes place on stage. That’s because much of it cannot be put into words, though what text there is has been smartly written by the playwrights.
The play is first in this season’s New Movements series. The series is meant to nurture new work and new artists. The Cunis brothers’ writing works well within scenes–particularly those between Cain and Abel, which are tinged with sibling rivalry. It even works well in simultaneously breaking up and flowing into the trademark Synetic movement. There is a lot of emphasis placed on the couples: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Angel and Demon. Each is the other’s antithesis: Reason and Passion, Rebel and Brown-noser, Good and Evil. There is something here that is not yet quite palpable, but it all makes for some entertaining thoughtfulness. This is a promising “new movement” of old hat.
The cast is, simply, a good ensemble. Matthew Ward and Jefferson Farber as Cain and Abel deliver well-played scenes that border on realism. Ward’s deep-rooted angst and need for escape are a perfect opposite for Farber’s fear of the unknown and comfort in the familiar. Joseph Carlson’s Demon and Mary Werntz’s Angel make for a fun comedic duo, though he outshines her at times. Adam (Austin Johnson) and Eve (Brynn Tucker) have adorably innocent chemistry. Both are delightful to watch as the world’s first couple. All are more than adept at Irina Tsikurishvili’s complex movement sequences. Ben Cunis’s direction is quietly seamless. I didn’t even notice it–in a good way.
Irina Tsikurishvili’s choreography is full of spectacular body isolations as well as a wonderful sense of slight off-balance. All of it contributes to the gut understanding of the story. It is apparent why Tsikurishvili is a seven-time Helen Hayes award-winner. Clint Herring’s sound design and original music scoring complement this movement quite well. In addition, Herring creates an industrial, otherworldly sonic palette that strengthens the overall feel. The set (Daniel Pinha) is both haunting and beautiful. The machine-like Tree that is central to the action against the more organic, billowy sheets of plastic that are used repeatedly throughout offer a subconscious suggestion of something that “goes” with everything else. The actors’ costumes (Kristy Hall) suggest the primordial in hues of brown and adapt well to the extensive movement. Andrew F. Griffin’s lighting design appropriately directs attention and highlights this movement.
Synetic Theater’s Genesis Reboot is a substantially intricate piece; yet, it still manages to maintain accessibility. As this review nears its end, I am not sure I have given a complete picture of what to expect. Perhaps Synetic Theater, above others, most literally illustrates that fact about the theatre: I can’t possibly give you a complete picture of what to expect, and that is precisely why you ought to consider seeing it yourself.
Growing up at the turn of the 21st century, my generation has seen itself inundated with the reimaginings of the stories and characters of our childhood. For the past couple of decades, it has seemed that you can’t go a week without hearing about another classic film, book, cartoon or comic book being “rebooted” for a new era. Despite some remarkable exceptions, more often than not the new version pales in comparison to the old: the movie is never as good as you remember the book.
Retelling is not a new phenomenon. Shakespeare, after all, borrowed most of his characters and stories from a stock of classics; it was in the way he brought them to life that made them indelibly his. History, too, repeats itself. 9/11, war and recession have all served as sobering reminders that the apparent tranquility of a ’90s childhood was not a sign that we had left hardship behind, or that it just existed “somewhere else.” We, too, can repeat the ways of the past, for better or worse.
In this story we do not seek to retell the story of Genesis–we wish to confront the very idea of retelling. What does it mean to revisit the past? What does it mean to re-create? What is the role of the creator once the creation exists? And what if that creation is alive?
I owe a debt of thanks to all the artists who worked on this project. Synetic’s greatest strengths lie in three things: inspired leaders, a passionate, talented community of artists and an unshakeable ethos which demands that work never be declared “finished”–it is only “better.” We set out to discover this show together, and everything from text to movement to music to costumes has evolved as the story has evolved throughout the long rehearsal process. It is not an easy process by any means, and I am grateful especially to my actors for their hard work, their dedication, and most of all their inspiration.
I must especially thank Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili, the inspired leaders, for this opportunity. They have challenged me and driven me so much over the past six years and have inspired so many others that it is hard to comprehend their accomplishments. Lastly, I will say that without the love and support of my family, none of this would be possible–especially the work of my brother, Peter, whose words you will hear on stage tonight.
Ben Cunis, Director
Photos by Johnny Shryock
- Adam: Austin Johnson
- Eve: Brynn Tucker
- Angel: Mary Werntz
- Demon: Joseph Carlson
- Abel: Jefferson Farber
- Cain: Matthew Ward
- Understudy: Ryan Tumulty
- Director: Ben Cunis
- Choreographer: Irina Tsikurishvili
- Lighting Design: Andrew F. Griffin
- Costume Design: Kristy Hall
- Set Design: Daniel Pinha
- Original Music/Sound Design: Clint Herring
- Stage Manager: Betsy Summers
- Assistant Director: Ryan Tumulty
- Associate Costume Designer: Brittany Diliberto
- Technical Director: Phil Charlwood
- Production Supervisor: Erin Baxter
- Costume Construction: Colin Jones
- Master Electrician: Aaron Waxman
- Production Intern: Thomas Carter
- Scenic Painter: Daina Cramer
- Carpenter: Jonathan Weinberg
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/7658.
Rachael Murray is an actor, director, and teaching artist. She is a Virginia Tech alumnus with a Bachelor's of Arts in English and Theatre Arts. A relative newcomer to the DC Metro area, Rachael has participated as both an actor and director in a variety of projects at Virginia Tech and has worked as a teaching artist with Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany, New York.