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CurtainUp DC Review
by Rich See
Paata Tsikurishvili and his hyper-creative Synetic Theater members have created another dark, dream-like dance-theatre piece that speaks in symbols and expressions. This time in lieu of Russian literature, they premiere Tsikurishvili's experimental Bohemians, which is a condensed history of mankind's penchant for violence and tendency towards arrogance.
Adam and Eve, The Tower of Babel, Queen Victoria, and globalization are the touch-points in this dark, funny, and intriguing piece. Filled with Synetic-style symbolism that allows the audience to understand the action (there are only about thirty words spoken throughout the entire performance). If you have enjoyed a Synetic play in the past, you will find this one just as much fun!
Opening at the beginning of time with "Molecule Love," the actors wiggle and flutter about the floor, slowly coalescing into patterns, cells and then amoebas. Soon the nature spirits of Flora and Fauna emerge to give a Divine spark of life and suddenly we have entered the dawn of man in "The Garden or The Devil Made Me Do It." Satan promptly makes an entrance and Adam and Eve soon find themselves naked in the harsh cold of reality. Cain and Abel make their intro with "Brother's Keeper" and it soon becomes apparent that while Cain tries hard and works diligently, Abel is the one with the green thumb. This one-sided jealousy leads to a sudden head bashing with a big rock and in his dying moment Abel brushes Cain with his bloody hand thus staining him with the Mark of Cain.
From the climatic moment of Cain trying to escape his crime, the action segues into "The Tower of Babel." It's in the aftermath of this crashed hope of touching God that the only words in the piece are spoken -- a variety of tongues all saying the same thing but no one understanding each other. Soon a crown is dangled in front of the company and, forgetting their differences, everyone dives into the idea of ruling the world in the rousing "Age of Kings." From hedonistic kings, to Victorian queens, to cruel kings, to dueling queens, to idiot kings, to beheaded queens, to marauding kings everyone vies for the jeweled crown until it becomes apparent that the best way to run the world is through money and industry. Cities are built, the pace becomes frenetic, and we enter our own age of "The 21st Century Melting Pot" filled with rushing to get more and more done. But at what cost to individuality?
Enter the collapse of the corporation with "A Business Proposal" and we tumble into the era of human genome, bio-engineering, and the whole pantheon of science creating life. It's here in "Test-Tube Love" that we discover that the combination of science and man's limited vision have once again backfired -- as the two combined seem so often to do -- leading us to "The End is Here." Or is it the beginning? Tsikurishvili leaves that aspect up to the audience for interpretation.
Creator and director Paata Tsikurishvili along with his technical team have included some wonderful touches of insight. The actors are dressed completely in black, the lighting is stark white. When Flora (dressed in silver) and Fauna (outfitted in red) emerge the lighting changes to subtle shades of red. Post-Eden is once again stark white lighting. Cain's escape is made to appear as if he is a man trying to climb, dig, and unlock his way out of a mountain tunnel -- unearthing himself so to speak. The swinging back and forth of morals in "The Age of Kings" mirrors our own country's changing climate. Ethics may not have improved, but officially everyone is outwardly smiling as they kiss the butt of the queen. Satan in this production represents man's arrogance and selfishness, thus he appears throughout the play. Tsikurishvili points out that the only way towards salvation is to let go of this need to dominate all -- including nature -- and move to a place of selfless love. Thus in his interpretation the famed apple from the Tree of Knowledge is really hate, fear, and greed wrapped up as an illusion of knowledge and is man's ultimate downfall. In addition, the overseeing eye that emerges during the corporate big brother portion takes on new meaning once the post-apocalyptic world emerges. As humanity embraces a new inner value the eye becomes the luminous watch of God.
Irina Tsikurishvili's choreography is again both compelling and exciting. Although Classika Theatre's stage is small, the dancing and action of the piece seem large. The cast is made up of many Synetic company members. Since there are so few words in the production its hard to critique the actors! However, Greg Marzullo's Satan is quite evil while Anna Lane's Victorian Queen is perkily chaste. Irakli Kavsadze's facial mugging as the Idiot King is extremely funny. Philip Fletcher's Abel is an ode to inner peace. Jodi Niehoff's Eve is appropriately shell-shocked at the outset of post-Eden. As the Nature Spirits, Irina Tsikurishvili (Fauna) and Catherine Gasta (Flora) add an interesting duel aspect of natural law and pagan religion to the proceedings.
Although Bohemians at first glance may seem like a religious dance piece, it really is more of a thoughtful look at man's innate hubris and how this can be overcome through the conscious choice of love and compassion. Its 70-minutes move swiftly and never lag -- definitely worth the drive to Shirlington to see.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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