Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Ambassador Theater Under the Shadow of Wings

By • Feb 1st, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Death of Tintagiles & Karna and Kunti
Ambassador Theater
Flashpoint-Black Box Theater, Washington, DC
Through February 12th
1:40 with one intermission
$25/$15 Students
Reviewed January 30th, 2011

Under the Shadow of Wings is actually two different one act plays, Death of Tintagiles by Maurice Maeterlinck and Karna and Kunti by Rabindranath Tagore. Maeterlinck and Tagore each won the Nobel Price in literature in the early twentieth century. Karna and Kunti was a 20 minute play focusing on Kanta’s preparations for war until his mother, the goddess Kunti, appears. Death of Tintagiles follows Tintagiles as he is pursued by the Queen and his sisters Ygraine and Bellangere try to protect him.

Karna and Kunti took place at a stream as Karna (Gavin Whitt) was prearing for battle. He sees a vision of Kunti (Meera Narasimhan) in the surface of the water. Excellent music, sound and visual effects by David Crandall and Marianne Meadows’ lighting design created a mysterious ambience. Caridel Cruz’s costumes were colorful and ornate. Karna and Kunti was more literal than Death of Tintagiles.

After a brief intermission, Death of Tintagiles lasted just over an hour. The piece featured 12 year old Misha Ryjik as Tintagiles, Hanna Bondarewska as his sisyer Ygraine, and Paula Rich as his other Bellangere. The story focuses on the attempts of an unseen Queen who wants to steal Tintagiles. Numerous aspects of the story are symbolic, and the symbolism is very much open to your own interpretation. Again, special video effects were played on the upstage wall throughout and were quite effective, especially as Ygraine was searching for Tintagiles. In this play, the costumes were more simple, which allowed you to focus on the story instead of the details. Acting throughout the two plays was sincere.

After the performance the cast was available for a discussion about the plays. The discussion lasted about 15 minutes, and was very interesting for clarifying a few points of the plays.

With interesting visual and sound effects, and sincere acting, Under the Shadow of Wings is an opportunity to experience an early symbolist play and a portion of the Sanskrit epic The Mahabarata.

Director’s Notes

Death of Tintagiles presents a tale of an innocent party who gets swallowed by evil incarnate. Karna and Kunti depicts a warrior on the eve of the battle he knows in advance will be his undoing. In both cases maternal figures appear to protect the victims and ward off disaster, but the disaster ineluctably takes its course. Both are heavily symbolic, but symbolic of what? The powerlessness of innocence in the face of evil? The danger of attachment? The valor necessary to assume in a world in which the individual has limited control over personal destiny? Both Tagore and Maeterlink joined ancient models-the great Indian epic The Mahabarata and medieval fairy-tales respectively- with modernist retellings, deliberately leaving out essential connective tissue that the audiences accustomed to realism demand; they did so to re-focus the audience on the image rather than the story, and their trust that the audience would be capable of deciphering the mystery bespeaks these large-spirited authors’ ultimate confidence in humanity.

Karna and Kunti dramatizes one small episode in the vast fresco that is The Mahabarata, the classical mystical epic poem that is a bedrock text of Indian culture. Karna, a celebrated warrior with a curse on his head, is meditating on the eve of what he already knows will be his one and only defeat, one which will bring the end of his life. His cousin and opponent Arjuna, will come on him as he is repairing a wheel to his chariot and slay him. Arjuna is fighting for the five intrepid Pandavas, while Karna has affiliated himself with the hundred Karawas, a desultory band who have relied on him for all their previous victories consequently giving in to sloth and carelessness. Karna believes himself to be the son of a humble charioteer, while he is in fact born of the goddess Kunti. The stories from The Mahabarata (akin to Homer’s Iliad in the West) contain esoteric lessons, but can also be taken on their face as adventure stories.

-David Willinger

Photo Gallery

Gavin Whitt as Karna in 5384476572_d5a677ee49_z
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Photos provided by Ambassador Theater.

Karna and Kunti Cast

  • Karna: Gavin Whitt
  • Kunti: Meera Narasimhan

Death of Tintagiles Cast

  • Ygraine: Hanna Bondarewska
  • Tintagiles: Michael “Misha” Ryjik
  • Bellangere: Paula Rich
  • Agovale: Rob Weinzmier
  • Servants: Mary Suib, Gavin Whitt, Meera Narasimhan


  • Directed and designed by David Willinger
  • Music, Sound and Visual Design by David Crandall
  • Lighting Design by Marianne Meadows
  • Set Construction by Andrzej Pinkowski
  • Costumes by Caridel Cruz
  • Stage Manager Adam Adkins
  • Produced by Hanna Bondarewska

Disclaimer: Ambassador Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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  1. […] play and a portion of the Sanskrit epic The Mahabarata.” – Laura & Mike Clark¬†¬†( Posted by admin at 9:15 am Tagged with: "Under the Shadow of Wings", Belgium, India, […]