Reinventing The Bard’s greatest work

Reinventing The Bard’s greatest work

By Jordan Wright (Photo/Koko Lanham)

As far as this critic is concerned, Synetic Theater can do no wrong.

How could you fault their electrifying choreography, spectacular dancers or their break-the-mold interpretations of the classics — especially their famed Silent Shakespeare series. Critics hailing from such venerable outlets as The New York Times and The Washington Post have showered the theater in superlatives.

Meanwhile, the theater has garnered 24 Helen Hayes Awards and 92 nominations.

“Hamlet … the rest is silence” is the production that started it all, a magnificent journey that took hold of the collective psyche a decade ago. For the converts among us, this revival is a trip down memory lane. For newer audiences, it is a chance to experience the ensemble’s evolution, a view into their groundbreaking productions.

Regardless, I’d suggest brushing up on “Hamlet” before you go. The program doesn’t explain the plot. You’ve only got a listing of the scenes to go on — “Something is wrong in the state of Denmark,” “Murder most foul,” “To be or not to be”, etc. — and with such innovative interpretations and no dialogue, getting lost is easy.

In a play that delves into complex themes, like revenge, romance and tragedy, without words, it is up to the dancers, the lighting and the sound design to convey all of the emotions. This feat is accomplished in a whirlwind of riveting pantomime, garish lighting and mood-altering music, all coordinated to lend an element of danger.

Costume coordinator Claire Cantwell favors funereal black and gunmetal grey highlighted with splashes of blood red while lighting designer Brittany Diliberto bathes the set in midnight blue, poison green and fiery red to echo the nefariousness of the characters’ motives.

Sound designer Irakli Kavsadze pulls out all the stops, employing an array of musical genres to set the mood. Kavsadze’s masterpiece, though, is an eerie tango crafted for Claudius (Kavsadze) and Gertrude (the magnificent Irina Tsikurishvili, who also is the ensemble’s co-founder and choreographer) to frame the macabre machinations.

And keep your eyes on Irina Kavsadze, a sensuous pre-Raphaelite beauty who plays Ophelia. Her depiction of the devoted daughter, who shows the depth of her feelings for Hamlet in an early scene where the two lovers tenderly mirror each other’s hands and bodies, is a powerful counterpoint to her portrayal of the character’s descent into madness.

The dancing is flawless, as expected. Can anyone say anything new about the caliber of work at Synetic? Just remember this is not typical of the high-flying, production-on-steroids Synetic of today. It is a spare, focused reinvention — the one that brought the world to their doorstep.

“Hamlet … the rest is silence” runs through April 6 at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington. For tickets and information call 1-866-811-4111 or visit