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'Romeo and Juliet' Returns to Synetic

Irina Kavsadze (Juliet) and Zana Gankhuyag (Romeo), Synetic Theater, 2016

We welcome this theater review from contributor Philip Dickerson.

William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet cuts both ways. The themes and beautiful language have stood the test of time, but it is overdone because it is taught and produced in schools throughout the world and mounted anywhere from community theaters to the recent, short-lived 2013 Broadway run. Despite this saturation, Synetic Theater has returned to their silent version of Romeo and Juliet for a third time. This genre of silent Shakespeare has become a staple for Synetic, allowing company founders Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili to prove that even the wordiest and most complex of stories can be told through gestures and facial expressions, as long as most of the audience is familiar with the text.

The chosen theme of this particular production is “time.” The set, designed by Anastasia Simes, is made entirely of clock cogs and gears of various sizes, not to mention the ticking composition of Konstantine Lortkipanidze. After the gears start to spin and time is underway, we are introduced to the title characters, played by Zana Gankhuyag and Irina Kavsadze. They battle through the cogs and gears of time until they break through to the moment of self-discovery in adolescence. Both Gankhuyag and Kasadze perform with whimsical grace and awe, but the fight against time has just begun.

Philip Fletcher delights with his portrayal of the sexually explicit Mercutio. Fletcher’s third remount of the character is a good articulation of what has kept this production vibrant over the years. His over-the-top take on the character provides not only stolid company for Gankhuyag, but also a drastic contrast to the stern-faced Tybalt (played by Ryan Sellers). Fletcher and Sellers’s rivalry give the play the visual explosion that separates this duo from the intimacy of the young lovers.

Without words, there is not a long drawn out back and forth between the title characters in the balcony scene. Instead, with a kiss we are transported into the world of their hearts as they become weightless and move in and around each other like birds in flight. But the highlight of their romance comes later as the two characters experience their first night together after being married. The use of high-power manual flashlights along with a single bed sheet to create a scene in shadow not only provides a new effect; it also creates an erotic embrace without tainting the beauty of their innocent love. The seamlessness between Verona and the emotional rush of what the lovers are experiencing on the inside fills the void of silence and maybe delivers something that even Shakespeare’s pen could not.

Other Reviews:

Anne Donnelly, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at Synetic Theater (D.C. Metro Theater Arts, February 19)
All creativity and masterful movement aside, the true delight of the evening is topped off by Irakli Kavsadze’s portrayal of the Friar. In a production filled with visually stimulated fights and dancing we have this aged character, who seems to orchestrate the entire play. His simplistic moments and continual glances towards the audience give the sense that he knows we are watching. His most basic facial expressions impart so much that one might wonder if all the flashing lights, flips, and tumbles by the rest of the company are truly necessary.

This production runs 80 minutes with no intermission and will end on March 27.

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