Synetic Theater Three Men in a BoatBy David Siegel • May 14th, 2014 • Category: Reviews
Synetic Theater: (Info) (Web)
Synetic Theater in Crystal City, Arlington, VA
Through June 8th
1:40 without intermission
$50-$55/$45-$50 Seniors, Military/$15-$20 Students
Reviewed May 8th, 2014
Synetic Theatre continues to expand its artistic repertoire and unfold beyond the security of its tried-and-true “silent” Shakespeare works. It is a risky, but quite laudatory venture, to continually evolve by stepping out of a comfort zone from time-to-time. After all, a performing arts organization cannot just stand pat, even with successes, for the world can be such a fickle place always looking for the next new pretty thing.
So in an about face from its normal stance, Synetic has taken on the very verbal foolishness of upper-class, bored, supercilious Brits in the late 19th century. One way to describe Synetic’s current production of Three Men in a Boat (To say nothing of the dog) is this; it is composed of fuel from a 125-year-old book that turns into an evening of often timeless “pythonesque” sketches along with one deeply affecting scene that could happen right this moment. It is full-up with dialogue.
The comic novella source for the theatrical Three Men in a Boat (To say nothing of the dog) is a 1889 book written by Jerome K. Jerome ( 1859-1927). The book remains still in-print with qualities that make it a precursor to “Beyond the Fringe” and “Monty Python” madness.
Under the admirable hand of playwright and director Derek Goldman, the Synetic production is an affectionate, droll affair about a fortnight boating holiday on the Thames River by three, often smug but quite likeable, young male friends and a scrappy fox terrier. There are plenty of unforeseen comic troubles and disruptions along the way.
Three Men features actors new to Synetic including Tim Getman, Rob Jansen and Tom Story. They join Synetic stalwart Alex Mills. They play young men trying to escape from the hustle and bustle of their self-described overworked lives. Here is one character’s description of the stress they live: “goes to sleep at a bank from ten to four each day, except Saturdays, when they wake him up and put him outside at two.”
The production features fine work by Getman as the physically hearty George, Jansen as the reflective Harris who finds church grave yards places of interest, and Story as the instigator and narrator Jerome. Mills is outfitted as Montmorency, a fox terrier with a mind of his own. The story begins by introducing all the characters as they are spending an evening together; drinking, smoking and discussing their various illnesses as they read over the Merck manual of the day. Between their hypochondria and a sense of overwork, a holiday is in order. And so a boating trip up the River Thames and back over for a fortnight is in order. It is to be with physical labor of rowing and camping out-of-doors as a form of recreation. Right!
After packing their things with a mantra “We must not think of the things we could do with, but only of the things that we can’t do without,” they set off. Over the course of the intermission free 100 minutes, they find themselves with regular, less than satisfactory happenstances, usually caused by their own failings and too-proud behavior.
Wanting to open a tin of food they discover they forget to bring an opener. Wanting to freshen up some meat for a meal, they discover they forgot the mustard to make it palatable. The weather does not exactly cooperate as the forecasts are “always wrong.” And then there is an episode about making an Irish stew full of leftovers found in a wicker food hamper with an added dead river rat fetched by their faithful fox terrier. Each of these scenes involves verbal gymnastics with plenty of amusing running about choreographed by Synetic’s resident Helen Hayes awardee choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili.
It is a show with polite humor, “Everything has its drawbacks, as the man said when his mother-in-law died, and they came down upon him for the funeral expenses.” But it is far from just quick humor. One particular scene of sad affect leavens the comedy. Without warning, the men find something floating in the river. “Sometimes, our pain is very deep and real, and we stand…very silent, because there is no language for our pain.”
Ivania Stack’s costume design for the production are an amusing blend of colorful boating attire and natty smoking-room attire done up straw hats and other appropriate regalia including two-tone shoes. Her dog costume for Mills includes pieces such as paws, some here and there body parts and a hat with small pointed ears. Scenic design by Lisi Stoessel begins as a drawing-room and morphs into a small boat as a child would do, moving set pieces about to suggest the presence of a boat. The actors do the moving. The Thames River and shore landmarks are done thought nicely accomplished projections the handwork of Shane O’Laughlin. The projections give off the slow-moving up the Thames. The lighting design is a special joy when night scenes take the audience as far from Crystal City as is doable with delicious magical stars that are projected well beyond the stage area.
Three Men in a Boat (To say nothing of the dog) is a leisurely trip “far from the maddening crowds.” It is an easy-going night of entertainment. It is often enough a cheery, feathery production with plenty of chuckles and charm. It is also a tip of the hat to the importance of enduring, intimate friendships to share what life brings, whether good or bad. It is a seductive little piece.
Synetic Theater has successfully moved well beyond its usual formula of “silent” Shakespeare with a light-hearted Three Men in a Boat (To say nothing of the dog). This production is an amiable comedy that extends the reach of Synetic’s artistic territory. It may also have you go to YouTube to search for some of your favorite Monty Python routines as well. Nothing wrong with that.
Photos by Koko Lanham
- George: Tim Getman
- Harris: Rob Jansen
- Montmorency: Alex Mills
- Jerome : Tom Story
Artistic and Design Team
- Written and Directed by Derek Goldman
- Choreographer: Irina Tsikurishvili
- Scenic Design: Lisi Stoessel
- Costume Design: Ivania Stack
- Lighting Design: Brittany Diliberto
- Sound Design/Multimedia Engineer : Thomas Sowers
- Props Master Kasey Hendricks
- Music Director: Joshua Morgan
- Resident Stage Manager: Marley Giggey
- Projections Design: Shane O’Laughlin
- Production Manager: Ann Allan
- Technical Director: Phil Charlwood
- Vocal Coach: Robert Bowen Smith
- Assistant Directors: Alex Miletich & Elena Velasco
- Light Board Operator: Mary Grant
- Assistant Lighting Designer: Zach Dalton
- Wardrobe: Igor Dmitry
- Assistant Stage Managers: Nate Shelton & Sofia Shultz
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/10415.
David Siegel is a freelance theater reviewer and features writer whose work appears on ShowBizRadio, in the Connection Newspapers and the Fairfax Times. He is a judge in the Helen Hayes Awards program. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and volunteers with the Arts Council of Fairfax County. David has been associated with theater in the Washington, DC area for nearly 30 years. He served as Board President, Alexandria's American Showcase Theater Company (now Metro Stage) and later with Arlington's American Century Theater as both a member of the Executive Board and as Marketing Director. You can follow David's musings on Twitter @pettynibbler.