We turn our attention today to Arlington, Va. for the sixth installment of our 2014-15 previewing, and a look at the forthcoming shows of scrappy Crystal City-based Synetic Theater, overseen by its founding artistic director, Paata Tsikurishvili. (In prior posts, we’ve surveyed the rosters of Shakespeare Theatre Company, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Arena Stage, the Kennedy Center and Round House Theatre.) Next season’s four-production lineup at Synetic will feature, as always, reinterpretations of classic plays and books as well as this novel entry: Studio Theatre’s Serge Seiden directing Tsikurishvili and wife Irina in Janusz Glowacki’s 1987 off-Broadway comedy, “Hunting Coackroaches.”
Company trademark: Storytelling through stylized movement and dance, notably in wordless presentations of Shakespeare.
— “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” adapted from the novel by H.G. Wells, directed by Paata Tsikurishvili (Sept. 10-Oct. 12)
— “Beauty and the Beast,” adapted and directed by Ben Cunis (Dec. 3-Jan. 4, 2015)
— “Much Ado About Nothing,” by William Shakespeare, directed by Tsikurishvili (Feb. 11-March 15, 2015)
— “Hunting Cockroaches,” by Janusz Glowacki, directed by Serge Seiden (May 13-June 14, 2015)
Highlights: The chilling “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” the story of a mad scientist who creates grotesque hybrid creatures out of human beings and other animals, continues Synetic’s fascination with the macabre, explored previously in shows like “Dracula,” “Jekyll and Hyde” and “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Longtime company member Cunis, to whom Tsikurishvili has given opportunities before to create his own work, now tackles his new version of the timeless fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast.” Tsikurishvili then directs the 11th (whew!) installment of the company’s popular series of Shakespeare plays without words, the frisky “Much Ado About Nothing,” which follows on his recently closed “Twelfth Night.” The season ends with Seiden–represented most recently at Studio Theatre by “The Apple Family Plays”–directing Tsikurishvili and actress-choreographer wife Irina in Glowacki’s play about Polish emigres in New York.
Analysis: Tsikurishvili, bless him, is a restless soul. While he doesn’t mind repeating his successes–that he’s going to Shakespeare’s well for the 11th time is an indication of that–he also likes to shake things up, overturn his audience’s expectations. So in addition to reaffirming in his play selections his fealty to Shakespeare and the horror genre, he’s added an off-Broadway comedy to the mix for the first time. “Hunting Cockroaches” features a plum part for Irina Tsikurishvili, that of a Polish actress who can’t find roles for herself in New York. (It begins with her character, Anka, delivering a soliloquy by Lady Macbeth, and then asking the audience if her accent is as thick as people tell her it is. Veteran Synetic theatergoers will get the joke.) Paata Tsikurishvili’s ongoing commitment to and encouragement of Cunis is admirable, too, and one hopes for a bit more refined results with “Beauty and the Beast” than Cunis had with his 2012 Biblical adaptation, “Genesis Reboot.”