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‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ still casts a spell at Synetic Theater

Actors reinvigorate the wordless take on the William Shakespeare classic of lovers bliss and magical meddling

Ariel Kraje plays Puck in the Synetic Theater production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” this month. (Chris Ferenzi/Synetic Theater)
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If “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is only as enchanting as a production’s take on the mischievous fairy Puck and bumbling actor Bottom, then Synetic Theater is fortunate to count spellbinding performances from Ariel Kraje and Vato Tsikurishvili among its assets.

Although the “Silent Shakespeare” production was first staged at the Kennedy Center in 2009, then mounted at Synetic’s Crystal City space in 2013 and 2015, the entrancing cast breathes new life into the dance and movement-based troupe’s latest revival. The production is devoid of dialogue, like most Synetic shows. But the timeless tale of love’s bliss and magical meddling proves apt for such an interpretation, thanks to disparate plots that lend themselves to a refreshing range of visual and sonic aesthetics.

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Sprinkling the proceedings with fairy dust, pantomiming prowess and loose-limbed contortion, the blue-painted Kraje makes for an endlessly appealing Puck. She’s at her best when she’s twisting herself on the ends of invisible puppet strings or needling fellow fairies with Puck’s aw-shucks antics. But Kraje even charms while observing from afar, delighting in the lunacy of others while perched on the crescent moon in the glowing woodland set of scenic designer Anastasia Rurikov Simes.

The son of “Midsummer” director Paata Tsikurishvili and choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili, Vato Tsikurishvili imbues Bottom with wide-eyed intensity and impressive acrobatics, plus uncanny control of seemingly every muscle in his face. Tsikurishvili’s comic timing is particularly sharp in the climactic play within a play, when he’s bouncing off the charming, gender-bending take on Flute by Katherine DuBois. The starring turn has been a long time coming for Tsikurishvili, who played other members of the hapless acting troupe in Synetic’s past stagings of “Midsummer” but commands the stage here with such authority that it’s tough to imagine him ever taking a back seat.

With each “Midsummer” storyline comes fresh flourishes. The otherworldly quarrels of Oberon (Philip Fletcher, reprising his role) and Titania (Stella Bunch), the fairy king and queen, are staged with animalistic vigor. That stands in stark contrast to the ballroom elegance and raunchy, rough-and-tumble scrapping delivered by the lovesick Lysander (Lev Belopiletski), Hermia (Nutsa Tediashvili), Demetrius (Aaron Kan) and Helena (Anna Tsikurishvili, a master of floundering flirtation). Bottom’s acting troupe, meanwhile, provides low comedy of the highest order, as the bickering performers rehearse their play with a heaping dose of vaudevillian slapstick.

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The immaculate costumes from Simes, ranging from steampunk chic to black-tie attire and rustic outerwear, further differentiates the three threads. The same can be said for Andrew Griffin’s savvy lighting, grandiose for the magical beings yet grounded for the mere mortals, and Konstantine Lortkipanidze’s genre-splicing score, which includes driving dubstep, ragtime piano and “Bridgerton”-esque instrumental pop covers.

That last musical touch is particularly fitting for this sensual storytelling feat, as Synetic reimagines one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays with wordless elegance. A decade after first attempting that delicate dance, this “Midsummer” still knows how to cast a spell.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare. Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili. Choreography, Irina Tsikurishvili; fight choreography Ben Cunis; scenic design, costumes and props, Anastasia Rurikov Simes; lighting, Andrew Griffin; music and sound design, Konstantine Lortkipanidze; design associates, Kasey Brown, Aleksandr Shiriaev and Paul Callahan. With Irene Hamilton, Kim Ahn Aslanian, Alissa Zagorski, Nathan Weinberger, Pablo Guillén, Josh Lucas and Bengt Erik Nelson. Through July 24 at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington. About 110 minutes. $20 to $60. synetictheater.org.

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