Synetic Theater A Trip to the MoonBy Genie Baskir • Dec 17th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Synetic Theater in Crystal City, Arlington, VA
Through January 6th
$35-$50/$30-$45 Seniors, Military/$15 Student
Reviewed December 14th, 2012
How do we know the moon? Do we venerate it as a sphere made of rock and sand, with limited atmosphere and less gravitational pull than the earth; a satellite approximately 140,000 miles from us; yet so large and so close that it permeates our dreams and drives our ocean tides? Or is it a physically embodied allegory that bathes us in light and induces fantasies and reveries and drives artistic endeavor?
The heroism of President John F. Kennedy is bound in his pledge for the United States to reach the moon in ten years. In an administration that started in ignominy and ended in assassination, Kennedy is revered because he embraced the arduous. Whether staring down a nuclear challenge or conceiving of the sci-fi fantastical, he elevated curiosity and intellectual and scientific challenge to illustrate what was then truly exceptional about the United States.
By today’s standards the United states is exceptional because some foolish and anarchistic malcontents say it is exceptional while tolerating contemporary standards beneath the standards currently enjoyed by those failing nations the very United States uplifted in the first place. Therefore, it is not ironic that it was the United States who planted the first and only flag on the moon; the irony lies in that we have not been back there. But a private company is now selling moon trips to begin by 2020. The cost for this private indulgence is only $750,000,000.00…a cost the United States itself maintains it cannot afford anymore. This is not a joke; it a piteous abandonment of everything that made the United States exceptional in the first place. But none of this means human beings still don’t cherish our moon and our collective dreams about it.
And so the moon is once again a dream and its elevation in art reaches its apogee in Synetic Theatre’s A Trip to the Moon, an artfully integrated trio of moon based stories predominated by George Melies’ 1902 film of the same name. Writer, Director and Illustrator Natsu Onoda Power has conceived a lovely and brilliant work of dance, film, illustration, storytelling and music all simultaneously presented and executed with deliberate skill and compassion as two of the stories end sadly. I will state right now that I cannot even begin to put together words to describe the artfulness and loveliness of this production. The words elude me as I ponder the amazing lights and scene transitions as the three stories unfold. Is it possible to describe a ballet simulating dog mating as poetic? How about butt sniffing? Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili has elevated the most coarse of inate animal traits into a rhythmic work of art in the story of Laika (Karen O’Connell), the Russian stray dog sent into space in the experiment to see if life can survive a rocket launch and reentry. Sadly, Laika did not survive her journey; and only in the aftermath of the fall of the USSR did Laika’s handlers and rocket scientists express their long suffering guilt and regret at their collective participation in the deaths of Laika and the other dogs used as objects of experimentation.
When JFK issued his heroic challenge to American scientific research and development to overtake the Soviet advantage in space travel, he did not know that the Russian lack of safety protocols and its inapt entrepreneurial method of testing would result in the horrific launchpad conflagration that killed the leaders of Soviet space research, thus leaving that field wide open to the United States to attain the prize in JFK’s time frame. The Americans took so long to enter space competition because the admonition was issued that no live, sentient being would die in the trials. Laika’s capture, experimentation, flight and death are so astutely and heartwarmingly recreated and O’Connell is lovely as she channels a little doggie who died in a way that no other doggie had died before. O’Connell’s face is as as guileless as a little doggie’s and her canine joy in her life so beautifully expressed. The movement of the set pieces along with the scene transitions, in combination with Konstantine Lortkipanidze’s score are mesmerizing and Andrew F. Griffin’s lighting is a monument itself to episodic and evanescent art.
The least strong story in this trio of moon tales is “A Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.” a medieval Japanese tale of a lonely woodsman who finds a moon princess in the forest and raises her as his daughter until the Moon people return to bring her back, leaving the woodsman to die lonely and bereft. Saying this is the least strong story of the trio is by no means denying its creativity and loveliness. Why wouldn’t medieval raconteurs and poets have conceived of a life and society similar to their own on an unknowable and untouchable body suspended in the heavens, steeping Man and Woman in its light while teasing them with its remoteness? Set Designer Giorgios Tsappas and Costume Designer Kendra Rai explore the metaphorical and physically illustrate this wistful and sorrowful interpretation of no good deed going unpunished.
The title tale of this show is the fundament with which the tales interact with each other. George Melies made hundreds of films in his career and many were based on astronomy and moon travel. However, he is remembered for “Le Voyage dans la Lune,” a comic illustration of colonial aggression and hubris. Power authentically recreates the film in live action dance and pantomime while Jared Mezzocchi’s brilliant projections integrate the film with the live action. It is all just too fantastical to divine. The live action drawing of the scenic backgrounds in combination with the projections and the peeling away of the gigantic paper as scene transitions advanced brought applause interruptions throughout this drop-dead gorgeous show.
The thirty years prior to Melies crafting A Trip to the Moon evoked a revolutionary change in life for the developed world. Electric light, telephony, celluloid film manufacture, spontaneous combustion engines…all elevated humanity from organic creatures subject to the Earth to masters of the Earth as one scientific breakthrough begat another pyramided on the scientific principles being proven daily. In 1902, while Melies was making A Trip to the Moon, Guglielmo Marconi was opening his first Marconi radio station and Albert Einstein and Mileva Maric were pondering what would become known as the Special Theory of Relativity. Melies’ A Trip to the Moon is a comic illustration of Man as master of the Earth.
It is no secret that I am tired of expensive 20th century musical revivals and I am interested in the new and experimental. For every amateurish non success I suffer through, I am rewarded with the joys and revelations of breakthrough works of art that leave me dreaming of the future and pondering the miracles of the past. Synetic Theatre never fails to impress me with its art and creative invention…venerating the past and exploring the future of creative endeavors.
Photos by Johnny Shryock
- Colin Analco, Ben Arden,Victoria Bertocci, Katrina Clark, Zana Gankhuyag, Pasquale Guiducci, Francesca Jandasek, Karen O’Connell, Renata Veberyte Loman, James Konicek, Ula Louise olsen,Guy Spielmann
- Writer, Director, Illustrator: Natsu Onada Power
- Choreographer: Irina Tsikurishvili
- Composer: Konstantine Lortkipanidze
- Projections Designer: Jared Mezzocchi
- Set Designer: Giorgios Tsappas
- Props Designer: Suzanne Maloney
- Costume Designer: Kendra Rai
- Stage Manager: Marley Monk
- Lighting Designer: Andrew K. Griffith
- Production Manager: Amy Kellett
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/8958.
Genie Baskir is a theatrical producer. She worked in radio production and direction for many years and gravitated to theatre when family members became involved with the stage.