Synetic Theater deftly brings ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’ to the stage

Synetic Theater deftly brings ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’ to the stage

By Jordan Wright (Photo/Johnny Shryock)

Synetic Theater has taken H. G. Wells’ science fiction classic “The Island of Dr. Moreau” and morphed it into a frighteningly realistic maelstrom of horrors, just in time for Halloween.

For those who like being terrified by a mad scientist whose muse is a vengeful half-human, half-feline fiend, sit back and settle in for a wild ride and a landscape filled with vivisected beasts — the good doctor’s engineered experiments.

Alex Mills plays Parker, a hapless shipwreck victim, washed upon the shores of a Pacific island thousands of miles from civilization and light years from reality. When he recalls that the doctor was blackballed from the scientific community for his gruesome experiments on humans, he begins to fear for his life amid the zombies.

As well he should.

To understand what machinations are transpiring within the laboratory, he forms a friendship of convenience with Moreau’s dedicated assistant Montgomery (Dallas Tolentino) who — between nips from a silver flask — assures the newcomer that the doctor is saving the world by designing a better, more efficient human being.

He is less than convincing.

“All [Moreau] creates is suffering and the deification of himself,” Parker notes.

Paata Tsikurishvili is perfect for the role of Moreau. He plays the role of the good doctor with an evil swagger and a studied nonchalance.

“The law is not to eat flesh and not to go on all fours,” he warns six beasts, insisting they parrot his edicts on command.

Later, he declares, “The crafting of living flesh has been around for a long time,” and “Real progress can only be achieved by someone as remorseless as myself.”

We slowly begin to see what a grotesque monster he has become.

Irina Tsikurishvili is behind the spectacular choreography that interweaves the plot with the characters’ action. Meanwhile, set designer Phil Charlwood’s massive metal sculpture in the shape of a butterfly wing (Parker is a lepidopterist) that the beasts clamber upon keeps them in sight but removed from the scene. Kendra Rai’s breathtakingly surrealist costumes, which reflect the tormented creatures’ many excisions, alterations and freakish attachments, magnify the constant suffering and torture of the bizarre beasts.

Brittany Diliberto and Riki K.’s multimedia, electronic light show heightens all of this for the theatergoer. Accentuated by lasers, glowing chemicals and theatre-filling galaxies, it wonderfully accompanies the original, unearthly synthesizer score by Irakli Kavsadze.

It is all a harmonic exercise in sci-fi weirdness, calibrated to raise goosebumps on even the most hardened futurists.

“The Island of Dr. Moreau” runs through November 1 at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington. For tickets and information call 1-866-811-4111 or visit