We Love Arts: Macbeth

Irakli Kavsadze and Irina Tsikurishvili in Synetic Theater's 2011 production of Macbeth. Photo credit: Graeme B. Shaw

What would you do for absolute power? Could you kill your friend? Murder children? Call it justice? Watch out. On the path to conquering the world, you might lose your soul. “Fair is foul and foul is fair…”

There’s a gasp-inducing moment in Synetic Theater‘s production of Macbeth that focuses it as a straight-up morality tale. Lady Macbeth, in the last throes of madness induced by guilt, slides into a hellish hole like blood down a drain. It’s terrifying, as Irina Tsikurishvili’s eyes roll around and the watching witches smile demonically in approval.

It’s hard to remember there once was a time when Synetic seemed to come out of nowhere, with images like this one shaking up the DC theatre scene. Their physically combustive style was almost subversive in its daring. Now that they’re more established, at home in Crystal City, they could easily rest on the accolades gained by their current signature style of Silent Shakespeare, and audiences might not blame them for it. But I doubt there will be much resting by Synetic’s driven artistic team, and I’m interested to see what they come up with in the next phase.

Before they move on with new explorations of world physical theater next year, their Silent Shakespeare Festival Speak No More revives three of their popular wordless adaptations – Macbeth, Othello (my personal favorite) and Romeo & Juliet. Each run will be just about three weeks – Macbeth closes October 2.

This revival of the 2007 production is darkly militaristic. Forget the tartan. Bring on the choke chain.

Irina Tsikurishvili, Mary Werntz and Philip Fletcher in Synetic Theater's 2011 production of Macbeth. Photo credit: Graeme B. Shaw

Director Paata Tsikurishvili dispenses with the fair immediately, as three saintly representatives of the world’s religions are hijacked by three demonic witches (Philip Fletcher, Mary Werntz and Sarah Taurchini) who seethe with foulness. The object of their corruption, fearsome soldier Macbeth (Irakli Kavsadze), already seems destined for hell with his hollow eyes. His wife (Irina Tsikurishvili) is already dripping with metaphorical blood in shocking red gloves. It doesn’t take much to push these two over the edge of ambition into murder and madness.

If there’s a flaw in this production, it’s simply that the Macbeths as portrayed here are already pretty repulsive. In a seductive way, yes, as they slither deeper into depravity, but they don’t have much of a journey from fair to foul. That’s a ponderous atmosphere to hang out in, even for ninety minutes. Perhaps it just more strongly highlights for me the company’s progression to their more psychologically subtle work, like last year’s Othello.

But Macbeth also does succeed, especially when it showcases Synetic’s ability to mix in comedy in a rather startling way – as when the ghost of Banquo (Ryan Sellers) appears at a chillingly hilarious banquet populated by robotic guests, while Lady Macbeth nonchalantly smokes, like a majestic Dietrich in a cowboy saloon. When the witches mime Macbeth’s invincibility to “no man of woman born” with the grotesque leers of nightmare midwives, it has the punch of a sick joke.

The ensemble has reached a point where they telegraph the metaphor and meaning inherent in Irina Tsikurishvili’s choreography with extreme effectiveness, and it still generates a riveting response. That clearly defined aesthetic is equally apparent in the production design, with the cold darkwave world of Anastasia R. Simes’ set/costume design well matched by the industrial electronica of Konstantine Lortkipanidze’s music.

It’s a killer goth club atmosphere against which these devious Macbeths can tango, in a true danse macabre.

Synetic Theater‘s production of Macbeth runs now through October 2, located at 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington, VA. Closest Metro stop: Crystal City (Yellow/Blue lines). For more information call 1-800-494-8497.

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Writing for We Love DC restored her happiness after a life-threatening illness, and she’s grateful to you, dear readers. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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