‘Much ado’ about doo-wop at Synetic Theater

‘Much ado’ about doo-wop at Synetic Theater

By Jordan Wright (Photo/Koko Lanham)

In Synetic Theater’s jived up version of “Much Ado About Nothing,” Las Vegas’s flamboyant landscape of feathered and sequined showgirls becomes the backdrop for Director Paata Tsikurishvili’s reinvention of the beloved comedy and the next installment in the troupe’s “Silent Shakespeare” series. In his interpretation, Beatrice (Irina Tsikurishvili) is a lovelorn lounge singer and Benedick (Ben Cunis) her castoff lover, who are reunited in her Uncle Leonato’s (Peter Pereyra) casino.

Much to each other’s dismay.

Benedick has joined Don Pedro’s (Philip Fletcher) gang, the “Syneticons,” who blow into town on their motorcycles — gleaming single-wheel choppers designed by Props Master Kasey Hendricks and Technical Director Phil Charwood.  Soon gang member Claudio (Scott Brown) falls hard for Don Pedro’s daughter Hero (Emily Whitworth) and that’s when the jealousies, betrayals and backstabbing ruses begin.

In this “Grease”-meets-“West Side Story”-meets-“Car 54 Where Are You?” fantasy, the comic relief often is provided by a hilarious trio of cops, led by the Chief of Police, Dogberry, purposely overplayed by Vato Tsikurishvili. The cut-ups give chase to the lawless gang in slapstick routines worthy of Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy. Of particular note is Zana Gankhuyag, who plays Verges.

Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili pulls out all the stops, letting the dancing dictate the period. In a departure from the dark dynamic that infuses many of Synetic’s productions, the cast’s mood and infectious enthusiasm is flat-out joyful. Girls jitterbug in poodle skirts with James Dean-esque bikers clad in leather and tight jeans, while the theme from “Peter Gunn” takes it into overdrive.

It’s a doo-wop mash-up of oldies from back in the day as sound editor and composer Konstantine Lortkipanidze and music director Irakli Kavsadze conspire to bring back Chubby Checker with “The Twist,” Bobby Darin’s “Dream Lover” and the era of “Beach Blanket Bingo.” Actually, a few decades overlap here, but who cares; it’s an idealized backdrop for teenage angst and puppy love.

So even if the Chippendales didn’t launch their striptease act till 1979, we don’t mind these hot male dancers doing a bit of bump-and-grind along with a game of strip poker. And even though Leonato reminds us a bit of Al Pacino in “Scarface” and the preacher is a black Elvis (Wait! Was that James Brown?), it’s fun to play along.

As expected, there is breathtaking dancing and gravity-defying acrobatics from the classically trained Georgian troupe. And although it gets off to a bit of a slow start, after a few minutes, it explodes into full-throttle Synetic-style mania, fueled by dancers that look as if they’ve been just waiting to cut loose and show their cool daddy-o side.

“Much Ado About Nothing” runs through March 22 at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Crystal City in Arlington.  For tickets and information call 866-811-4111 or visit www.synetictheater.org.