Monday, February 16, 2015

Much Ado about No Shakespeare

Back from yesterday's matinee performance of Much Ado About Nothing at Synetic Theater in Crystal City. This was the 11th of Synetic's renowned wordless (not silent) Shakespeare productions, an oxymoron that produces varied reactions (not unlike those when revealing that one is a Clay Aiken fan), ranging from bemused condescension to moral outrage.

Ben Cunis as Benedick and Irina Tsikurishvili as Beatrice. Program art for Much Ado About Nothing, Synetic Theater.

Shakespeare, of course, offered the world more than poetry, and the gift of the Synetic approach is that it winkles out the subtleties of character development and the nuances of situation comedy--and tragedy--that is also all Shakespeare. A wordless theatrical production of Shakespeare is every bit as legitimate as the Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet or the Mendelssohn Midsummer Night's Dream, and music and dance are among my favorite tools in the artistic toy box.

It's interesting that a lot of the updates of spoken Ado are set in the black-white-silvery worlds of Art Deco, leaving all color to the language, whereas the text-free Synetic production is all color and movement and music. Set in Fifties-era Las Vegas, with showgirls and motorcycle gangs (wearing "Syneticon" gang leather jackets), this Ado drives a harsher wedge between light and dark, farce and ferocity, through sheer physical power--not just the athleticism of the dance and pantomime, but also the attention given to details in props, costumes, lights, and music. All senses are on alert and fully, energetically engaged.

There is, appropriately, a parental advisory on this production, which goes a bit beyond the bard's usual bawdy humor: "This production is recommended for ages 14+ for some drug use and stylized sexual content." It's not for those squeamish about hypodermic needles, either.

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Synetic Theater (1800 South Bell Street, Crystal City, Virginia 22202), through March 22, 2015
Directed by Paata Tsikurishvili, choreographed by Irina Tsikurishvili

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