By Jordan Wright
Take “The Tempest.” Now, place it on a stage holding 2,500 gallons of water, six-inches deep. Mix the technological wizardry of a cutting-edge audio-visual immersive experience with an electronic score and keep it utterly wordless. This is the experience created by Synetic Theatre’s version of Shakespeare’s familiar drama.
The production was born out of the seemingly limitless imagination of visionary artistic director Paata Tsikurishvili, a Georgian-born theatrical pioneer, and his wife, Irina Tsikurishvili, an actress, choreographer and 33-time Helen Hayes Award nominee.
Together, the Tsikurishvilis founded this uniquely transgressive, no-rules theatre company, reinventing the classics through the art of athleticism, aesthetics, futuristic sound and physicality.
In early Shakespeare productions, gender reversal was the norm. Men played all the roles, both male and female. In this production Paata toys with gender too, casting Prospero as a newly-minted Prospera, played by Irina. Ariel, the female sprite, is imagined as male and performed by the tremendously talented dancer and performer Alex Mills, who appears as a pop-locking, anime-inspired superhero, stylistically reminiscent of Marvel Comics’ Silver Surfer.
Welcome to Synetic’s phantasmagoric world of enchantment and mysticism. Overflowing with dizzying acrobatics, flips and fluid somersaults, it offers up a psychedelic experience far outside the realm of the Shakespeare most people have come to know.
Cutting an elegant swath through an aqueous mist, Prospera, the sorceress, is a majestic figure, as she stands bravely amidst the sounds of crashing waves interwoven with electronica and futuristic synth-pop.
Hidden behind prison gates in a fiery-red grotto, lurks the malevolent monster, Caliban, Vato Tsikurishvili, Paata and Irina’s son, at his most magnificent. He emerges stealthily, inching beneath the waves and locks horns with Prospera, water spewing across the stage, catching the light and spraying wildly onto the front rows. Dominated by splashing water, rainstorms, ferocious battles, amorphous sea creatures and playful comic scenes, this wildly atmospheric water world will be your new normal.
The entirety of the cast is outstanding. In a production that redefines acting as both intensely physical and dramatically interpretive, the casting requires a unique kind of performer – one who is both classically trained in ballet and acrobatics. I was utterly blown away by the fearless athleticism and extraordinary acting expressed by this amazing cast.
Note that the first three rows are known as the “splash zone” with courtesy ponchos provided. Request these seats when booking your tickets if you’re up for a totally immersive experience.
With Anne Flowers as Syncorax, Megan Khaziran as Antonia, Scott Brown as Ferdinand, Pablo Guillen as King Alonso, Katherine DuBois Maguire as Trinculo, Matt R. Stover as Stephano and Scean Aaron and Katherine Frattini in the ensemble.
Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili and choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili with composer and sound designer Konstantine Lortkipanidze, scene and costume designer Anastasia Simes and lighting designer Andrew Griffin.
If you go
Run dates: Through Oct. 20
Where: Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington
For tickets and information: 1-866-811-4111 or www. synetictheater.org