Home of the Soldier

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Editorial Review

REVIEW: ‘Home’ seems foreign, yet familiar
By Peter Marks
Saturday, June 9, 2012

In Synetic Theater’s new war drama “Home of the Soldier,” the bodies pile up, but unfortunately, so do the cliches. This 90-minute dance-play, about a young man who enlists in the military to save his father -- a general who has been captured by an enemy wearing gauzy, free-flowing netting -- is a whole album of echoes. As a result, it never reverberates with an identity of its own.

Borrowing liberally from such varied films and plays as “Apocalypse Now,” “Rambo” and “Black Watch,” the show, directed by Paata Tsikurishvili, is a departure from much of Synetic’s repertory. The company, based in Crystal City, has made a name transforming the classics, and primarily Shakespeare, into galvanizing hybrids of pantomime, modern dance and martial-arts moves. As recently as this spring, in its hyper-energetic “Taming of the Shrew,” Synetic showed its prowess in distilling, in wordless style, the emotional core of a play.

In its attempt to cobble together an original story, the company has entered foreign terrain. The awkwardly titled “Home of the Soldier” -- why not a name that sounds more colloquial? “War Dance”? -- wanders this way and that, trying out various conceits and then discarding them, in service of its hackneyed plotting. Squandered in the process are choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili’s evocative dance sequences, including a fine number incorporating western line dancing. (The piece could use more of these and fewer of its interchangeable battle scenes.)

Ben Cunis’s script presents us with an intense young man played by Vato Tsikurishvili, Paata and Irina’s son, who witnesses his father’s battlefield abduction via Skype (and designer Riki K’s cool videos). Soon, he’s going through basic training; the calisthenics provide a good rationale for some disciplined movement in unison by the men and women portraying the military personnel.

The war’s location remains vague, especially because the enemy, led by Jodi Niehoff in the role of a character called “Native Mother,” seems more preoccupied with exotic fashion statements than political ones.

We’ve seen the chest-bumping, adrenaline-pumping sort of troop bonding depicted in “Home of the Soldier” so many times that the interludes merely feel imitative of better, nimbler evenings. This one might be more effective if it played more consistently to the company’s strengths and didn’t try so hard to look and sound like every other war story.

Backstage: Father and son
By Jessica Goldstein
Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Paata Tsikurishvili remembers war. When the founding artistic director of Synetic Theater was growing up in Georgia, the former Soviet satellite, conflict raged. Though he was a civilian, “I remember guys who were practicing how to shoot bazookas and guns.” He remembers his dad telling him, “Sometimes, people need to give the blood to achieve things.”

Tsikurishvili is channeling the memories in the direction of “Home of the Soldier,” an original play he created with Synetic’s resident fight choreographer, Ben Cunis, who wrote the script.

“Home” opens on a young man who is video-chatting with his father, a soldier in an unnamed war. In the middle of their conversation, conflict breaks out in the war zone and the father vanishes from the screen. The son, whose understanding of war is rooted mostly in video games, joins the army to find his dad.

Tsikurishvili and Cunis devoted months to research, interviewing numerous veterans, including a Georgian soldier who lost both legs in Afghanistan. “I was talking to him to find out, what is a real soldier’s perspective?” Tsikurishvili said. “When real bullets start flying towards you, how does that feel? What is that emotional moment? How does it feel the first time you kill somebody?

In a close-to-home casting decision, Paata’s son Vato, who is 21, plays the anonymous son. “We wanted to select young kids, because that’s who really fights the war today on the front lines. So the cast is so young, and that really, really touched my heart,” Tsikurishvili said. “I think [Vato] is ready for this character.”

He hopes the play brings military service to the forefront of the audience’s mind. “We have such a wonderful life” in the United States, he said. “But every day, somebody is dying [so] we can have that life. . . . I know how heroic they are. [But] in daily life, we don’t remember.”