Directed by co-founder and Artistic Director, Paata Tsikurishvili, “Romeo & Juliet” is Synetic Theater’s final production in their Crystal City home of the past fifteen years. In our current world of theaters as job-shops for freelance actors, choreographers, and designers, this “Romeo & Juliet” is a testament to the power of a resident theater company. This superb remount of the original 2008 production features actors and artists who have worked on multiple projects with Synetic and many are company members. This commitment to their people as well as to their art sadly has been on the decline in contemporary American theaters for many years. Though Synetic will continue to produce and teach their unique form of theater, patrons and donors to theater in the D.C. metro area, you are on notice to ensure this remarkable company finds a venue suitable to the high level of theatrical experience Synetic unfailingly provides.
…boldly sensual and breathtakingly beautiful.
The smooth jazz pre-show music at first lulls the audience as we take in Phil Charlwood’s striking set design. Images of haste run through the Shakespeare’s script: “I stand on sudden haste,” says Romeo. “They stumble that run fast,” is the Friar’s reply. On Synetic’s stage, the swift and inevitable passage of time fills the visual field, a pendulum surrounded by a display of clock gears in many sizes whose dark greys and purples conjure a chilling sense of foreboding. The initial stasis is abruptly disturbed as the Friar (Irakli Kavsadze) starts the clock with a push of the pendulum and actors take control of the gears. The whole set clicks into motion to the syncopated electronica of Koki Lortkipanidze’s music, which is punctuated by a human metronome (Maryam Najafzada). The brilliant image of this center stage actor/dancer’s precise movements, amid a background threatening to dissolve into chaos, is unforgettable.
Choreography throughout the play is excellent, but remount fight choreographer Vato Tskikurishvili, who also plays Tybalt, outdoes himself during the fight scene after the Capulet’s ball, itself a choreographic wonder. The sheer physicality and grace of Tybalt and the wonderful Tony Amante as Mercutio are thrilling. Amante also proves to be a gifted physical comedian as he mocks and provokes Tybalt and the Capulets. He is bested only by Janine Baumgardner in a hilarious turn as the bawdy nurse.
Lighting always has a major role in a Synetic performance and Brian S. Allard’s design is especially effective when Romeo (Zana Gankhuyag) and Juliet (Irinka Kavsadze) consummate their marriage in secret, their love at once shielded and magnified behind a scrim. The mesmerizing effect is boldly sensual and breathtakingly beautiful.
Spectators familiar with Shakespeare’s play will have no problem following the wordless Synetic production. Since the entire performance is a mere 90 minutes, some details are inevitably sacrificed. For anyone new to the tale, there may be a moment of confusion surrounding the origin and purposes of the two potions—one possessed by Juliet and obtained from the Friar and one by Romeo purchased from an apothecary. In the end, though, the pathos of the final tragic moment is undiminished. The message on which the director focuses is clear and sadly timely—the Capulets and Montagues hate each other for no clear reason other than they have always done so. As Paata states in the program note: “…generational hate and misunderstanding, all of it self-perpetuating and ultimately self-defeating —this is the real tragedy of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’”
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
Advisory: Parental guidance is advised for young children due to sensuality and physical jokes. Uses smoke and haze.
“Romeo & Juliet“ runs through March 24, 2024 at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell Street, Arlington, VA 22202. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. For more information and to purchase tickets, call the Box Office at 703-824-8060, ext. 117 or go online. Enjoy Valentine’s Day at Synetic on Wednesday, February 14, 2024 at 8 pm with a Lovers & Friends pre-show reception, 6:30 – 7:30 pm.